Category Archives: Election Analysis

Committee Continuity – Part II

By Jim Ellis

July 29, 2020 — Completing our two-part series on changes we may see on some key House and Senate committee panels, today we look at the financial, commerce, and legal committees.


SENATE COMMERCE, SCIENCE & TRANSPORTATION

Republicans – Just three of the 14 majority Republicans are on the ballot this year, and two are in competitive races. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R) is in one of the most difficult campaigns in the country, while Alaska first-term incumbent Dan Sullivan (R) is a clear favorite to win in November despite early polling showing a potentially close race. There are no open seats among the Republican committee members.

Democrats – The Democrats have 12 members, and Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell would replace chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) if her party assumes control in November.

The Dems also have just three of their Commerce Committee members in-cycle, and two are in competitive campaigns. First-term Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) faces a difficult challenge from manufacturing company owner John James (R). Sen. Peters appears secure in polling now, but the race is likely to close. The contest was in toss-up mode before the COVID shutdown. The other competitive race is a Democratic primary, as Sen. Ed Markey faces a difficult toss-up challenge from Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Newton).


HOUSE ENERGY & COMMERCE

Democrats – This is one of the most important committees in the House, and majority Democrats hold a 31-24 advantage. The Dems are looking at four vacancies as Reps. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM-3) and Joe Kennedy III (D-MA-4) are running for the Senate, Rep. David Loebsack (D-IA-2) is retiring, and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY-16) was defeated in the June 23 New York primary. Just one majority member, Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ-1), could face a competitive opponent. The Arizona primary is Aug. 4, and we will know more once we see who wins the Republican nomination.

Republicans – Six Republicans will leave the House at the end of this term, including Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR-2). Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT-AL) is running for governor, while Reps. John Shimkus (R-IL-15), Pete Olson (R-TX-22), Bill Flores (R-TX-17), and Susan Brooks (R-IN-5) are retiring. Michigan Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI-6) and Tim Walberg (R-MI-7) have credible opponents, and Shimkus, particularly, is embroiled in a tough race. Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC-8) also has drawn an opponent of stature, but he remains a heavy favorite for re-election.
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Committee Continuity – Part I

By Jim Ellis

July 28, 2020 — Since elections always bring changes in the House and Senate committee structures, it is appropriate to begin looking at which key policy panels have the most known approaching changes.

In today’s Update, we begin to look at two anchor financial committees in each house and touch upon the internal political musical chairs. We look at the known committee vacancies due to retirement or primary defeat and identify the members who face competitive political situations. Obviously, a change in party control will fundamentally cause the greatest change, but we will look at those effects once we are closer to the election.


SENATE FINANCE

• Republicans – The GOP has a 15-13 majority on the Finance Committee under the leadership of veteran Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Two Republicans are retiring, Sens. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Mike Enzi (R-WY), and one, Montana Sen. Steve Daines is in a highly competitive re-election contest against term-limited governor and former presidential candidate Steve Bullock (D). Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) will have a substantial amount of money spent against him, but he is considered a likely winner at this time. Of the committee’s 15 Republicans, only four are in-cycle this year.

• Democrats – This side is even more stable. None are retiring, and just one of their 13 members, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, is in-cycle. He is in a non-competitive situation. Should the Democrats gain the majority, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) would become the new Finance Committee chairman.


HOUSE WAYS & MEANS

• Democrats – On this important exclusive committee, the majority Democrats command a 25-17 advantage. They have only one sure vacancy, and that because of Rep. John Lewis’ (D-GA) recent death. Just two of the members have re-election races that can be considered competitive. Ironically, one of those is a Democratic primary challenge to committee chairman Richard Neal (D-MA-2).

Though it is unlikely that Neal will be denied re-nomination in the Massachusetts primary on Sept. 1, his opponent, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, has managed to raise over $840,000 for his campaign at the June 30 second quarter financial reporting deadline. If Neal is upset in the primary, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-35) would be the next most senior member since Rep. Lewis has passed.

Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV-4) has already lost this seat once as an incumbent. He faces former state assemblyman Jim Marchant in a northern Las Vegas-anchored district that has yet to re-elect an incumbent since its creation in the 2011 redistricting plan. Rep. Horsford is the clear favorite, but the contest merits attention.

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The Wild Polling Spectrum

By Jim Ellis

July 27, 2020 — We’ve seen a plethora of presidential state polls released in the past couple of days, and the results seem to swing wildly among the various pollsters. While most studies have shown former vice president Joe Biden at present winning most of the key states, his margins don’t seem particularly secure even while his national numbers appear stronger.

Let’s explore the polling divergence, and remember that sample selection, weighting, size of the respondent universe, and length of time to complete the survey process are all important variables in determining a ballot test result. Also, the huge number of people refusing to answer their phones or not participating in political surveys means that pollsters must further rely on weighting and mathematical supposition to compensate for the lack of live responses.

With that short background, let’s look at some of the key states producing the widest swings:


FLORIDA

• Quinnipiac University – July 16-20 (924 registered voters; live interview)

Biden 51
Trump 38
Biden plus 13

• St. Pete Polls – July 13-14 (3,018 likely voters via automated system)

Biden 50
Trump 44
Biden plus 6

Though Biden is up in both polls, the margin difference is stark. The Q-Poll, brandishing such a wide spread in what is typically a close political state raises reliability questions.


GEORGIA

• Garin Hart Yang Research – July 9-15 (800 likely voters)

Biden 47
Trump 43
Biden plus 4

• Spry Strategies – July 11-16 (701 likely voters; IVR)

Trump 49
Biden 46
Trump plus 3

Here we see two different leaders within two different polling samples within the same virtual period. Republicans tend to under-poll in the southern states, which could certainly be present in at least the GHY poll.


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Longshot Candidate Close
In Open Tennessee Senate Race

By Jim Ellis

July 23, 2020 — The open Tennessee Senate race has not gotten much national attention, but we now seem to have a close race brewing in the final days leading up to the state’s Aug. 6 primary. The Volunteer State is the only one to host a Thursday primary.

Dr. Manny Sethi, original long-shot candidate and noted Nashville orthopedic surgeon, has become a viable contender in the Tennessee Senate Republican Primary race.

Once most of the state’s well-known politicos took their names out of consideration after three-term incumbent Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) announced his retirement at the end of 2018, former US ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty looked to be the odds-on favorite to win the Republican nomination. These days in Tennessee, becoming the GOP standard bearer is virtually tantamount to winning a general election.

As the candidates make a dash for the political finish line, original long-shot candidate Manny Sethi, a noted Nashville orthopedic surgeon, has become a viable contender. Three separate polls released last week all found the two candidates within two to four points of each other, with Hagerty, armed with President Trump’s endorsement, clinging to a dwindling lead.

Late Tuesday, JMC Analytics & Polling released their new independent Tennessee survey (July 18-19; 600 likely Tennessee Republican primary voters), which projects Hagerty to be holding a 36-32 percent edge over Dr. Sethi. Last week, both the Trafalgar Group (July 6-8; 1,062 likely Tennessee Republican primary voters) and Victory Phones, the latter for the Sethi campaign (June 30-July 1; 800 likely Tennessee Republican primary voters), released survey results.

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An Inexplicable Michigan Poll

By Jim Ellis

Jen Richardson, Michigan’s MI-6 Democratic candidate for Congress

July 22, 2020 — Late last night, the Jen Richardson for Congress campaign in Michigan released a Gravis Marketing survey (July 16; 604 MI-6 likely general election voters via interactive voice response system) that defies credibility. According to Gravis, Democratic candidate Richardson leads 17-term incumbent Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) by 20 percentage points, 56-36 percent.

It is difficult to know even where to begin with the analysis. Let’s first point out that Richardson, who has raised just over $57,000 according to her June 30 Federal Election Commission disclosure report, is a big underdog in the Democratic primary let alone against Rep. Upton if paired in the general election.

Richardson is a teacher from Kalamazoo, running, as she describes, to be a voice for the middle class. Her Democratic opponent, however, in the intra-party election that will be decided Aug. 4, is three-term state Representative Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo), who is ineligible to seek re-election under the Michigan term limits law. In contrast to Richardson’s meager fundraising, Hoadley has attracted over $1.3 million and is the heavy favorite to face Rep. Upton in the fall campaign.

Perhaps the most glaring flaw in the Gravis poll – a survey firm that normally works for Republican candidates and often finds themselves posting better numbers for GOP contenders than other pollsters surveying the same races, e.g., Arizona president and Senate races at the end of June – is with their follow-up question.

Any established credibility ends totally when they report the generic ballot test question results, i.e., “if the election for Michigan District 6 were today and the candidates were a generic Democrat vs. a Republican, who would you vote for?” The same sampling universe that favors Richardson over Upton by 20 points chooses the generic Republican in a 46-43 percent margin.

Therefore, this poll’s results tell us that their interactive voice response system, which allows people to listen to an automated survey and then answer the questions by choosing a related number on their telephone, expects us to believe a conclusion that gives the Republican Party a three-point edge in this district, but their 34-year incumbent who has won 17 consecutive general elections in the southwestern Michigan region is 20 points behind someone who has little to no name identification?

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The Wild Kansas Senate Race

By Jim Ellis

July 21, 2020 — As we approach the Aug. 4 primaries, it’s clear that the Kansas Senate Republican primary will be the top attraction of that election day. An intra-party nomination clash in what should be a relatively safe open-seat campaign has devolved into a mixed-message political brawl.

Embattled Kansas Senate Republican candidate Kris Kobach

Just in the past month we’ve seen Democratic money coming into the Sunflower State in an attempt to influence the Republican primary, and national Republican money making an appearance trying to destroy the former GOP gubernatorial nominee. Furthermore, a well-healed third Republican candidate was being described as a multi-million dollar plumber who contributes more to Democrats. And, yesterday we saw a new ad with a candidate saying that it’s really “a badge of honor” that the Democrats are now attacking him because they’re afraid to face him in the general election.

When veteran Sen. Pat Roberts (R) announced his retirement last year, 2018 gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach, fresh from running the disastrous Presidential Commission on Election Integrity that yielded no results before being disbanded, jumped into the Senate race. Because Kobach ran such a poor gubernatorial campaign and virtually handed the office to then-Democratic state senator Laura Kelly two years ago, Republican leaders were fearful of him becoming the Senate nominee. Democrats were also seeing early polling numbers indicating that they could beat Kobach while other Republicans were faring much better in general election ballot test pairings.

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Georgia Dems Must Act Today

By Jim Ellis

Rep. John Lewis (D-GA)

July 20, 2020 — The death of veteran congressman and longtime civil rights activist, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), on Friday spurs Georgia’s unusual political succession law to take effect.

Since Mr. Lewis had already won re-nomination on June 9th, the Democratic Party must now name a replacement nominee and do so before 4:30 pm today. Georgia law gives a political party only one business day to name a replacement if, for whatever reason, a vacancy occurs post the nominating election.

In response, Democrats quickly assembled a committee of seven 5th District and statewide Democratic leaders who will send a recommended three to five candidates’ names to the Georgia Democratic Party’s state executive committee. The qualified members will then vote electronically from around the state in order to choose a new nominee by noon. The state party officials say they will communicate the Executive Committee’s choice to Georgia’s Secretary of State before 4 pm EST today.

According to the New York Times and other news outlets, three members of the screening committee are Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, former state House Minority Leader and 2018 gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, and Jason Carter, the party’s 2014 gubernatorial nominee, an ex-state senator, and grandson of former President Jimmy Carter. They will quickly choose among the people who filed an online application for consideration.

Speculation as reported in an Atlanta Journal and Constitution article indicates that the favorite to emerge from this lightening quick party process is state Sen. Nikema Williams (D-Atlanta), who is also the chair of the Georgia Democratic Party. Other top contenders are former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, Atlanta City Councilman Andre Dickens, and ex-state senator Vincent Fort.

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