Category Archives: Election Analysis

Amash Forms Exploratory Committee

By Jim Ellis

Michigan Rep. Justin Amash

May 1, 2020 — It has been speculated upon virtually since the time that Michigan Rep. Justin Amash (L-Cascade Township/Grand Rapids) left the Republican Party that he would enter the presidential race, and now he has taken the first step toward that end.

Amash made several announcements Wednesday. First, he is indeed filing an exploratory committee with the Federal Election Commission to gauge his chances of becoming Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee. Second, he informed the Clerk of the House that he is no longer an Independent, but a member of the Libertarian Party. Third, he confirmed that he will not seek re-election to his 3rd District House seat.

Let’s look at the subjects in order.

It is not surprising that Amash is taking this step. The idea of him becoming the Libertarian presidential nominee was first raised when he became an Independent US House member early last July, and the congressman never expressly ruled out that he would eventually run for president.

Some argue that Amash being on the ticket as the Libertarian nominee could take rightward leaning independent votes away from President Trump and allow former vice president Joe Biden to slip past him in crucial states like Michigan. While the scenario might have some credence in an intensely close election, it matters little that Amash’s name is the one these particular voters would be choosing.

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Mfume Elected; Ohio Races Set

By Jim Ellis

Kwesi Mfume

April 30, 2020 — Maryland held a stand-alone special election Tuesday in the state’s 7th Congressional District to replace the late Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Baltimore) for the balance of the term. Cummings passed away in October and the original special primary was held on Feb. 4.

With more than 100,000 votes counted and more remaining to be tabulated from the all-mail balloting, former congressman Kweisi Mfume returns to the House with 73 percent of the vote. Mfume defeated Republican nominee Kimberly Klacik who did not have a realistic chance in the heavily Democratic district, but she did manage to raise just about $200,000 for her effort.

Candidates for the full term now move onto the June 2 state primary, an election that was originally scheduled to be held yesterday. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) re-scheduled the primary as part of his series of his COVID-19 disease precautions.

In Ohio, Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus) was in a competitive primary against Morgan Harper, a former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau official who raised over $800,000 for his primary challenge. The four-term congresswoman had little trouble winning re-nomination, however, as she captured more than 68 percent of the vote. She is now the prohibitive favorite in the general election against banker Mark Richardson in what is a safe Democratic seat.

Reps. Brad Wenstrup (R-Cincinnati), Bill Johnson (R-Marietta), Warren Davidson (R-Troy), Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo), Mike Turner (R-Dayton), Marcia Fudge (D-Cleveland), Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville), David Joyce (R-Russell Township), and Steve Stivers (R-Columbus) all had minor primary opposition. Each won with between 83 and 94 percent of the vote.

In the 1st District, two Democrats were vying for the opportunity of challenging veteran Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Cincinnati). Healthcare company executive Kate Schroder claimed the primary with an unofficial and likely incomplete 68-32 percent victory over engineer and Air Force Reserve officer Nikki Foster. The 1st District has become more competitive as evidenced in Rep. Chabot’s 51-47 percent re-election victory in 2018. Therefore, we can expect another hotly contested campaign later this year in the Cincinnati area.

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Utah Convention Results

By Jim Ellis

Utah House Distrits

April 28, 2020 — The Beehive State Republicans and Democrats gathered in respective virtual settings to conduct their nominating conventions on Saturday and posted record delegate participation figures. Both parties were looking to advance candidates into an open Utah gubernatorial primary and in four congressional districts where three incumbents are seeking re-election. A total of 93 percent of 3,850 eligible Republican delegates cast their votes online, while 85 percent of the 2,203 Democratic delegates did the same.

In both parties, if a candidate receives 60 percent of the delegate support the individual is automatically advanced into the June 30 primary election. This year, the vote will be conducted through an all-mail procedure under emergency legislation that Gov. Gary Herbert (R) signed on Friday. Additionally, candidates who have qualified through the signature petition process also earn a primary ballot position. Candidates have the choice of only participating in the convention, only gathering signatures, or doing both.

If no one receives 60 percent, the top two finishers advance into the primary. The delegates used the ranked choice format to prioritize their votes, since multiple rounds were needed in most races. In a round, the last place candidate is eliminated and the remainder advance to the next vote. The process ends with either one candidate advancing to the primary ballot outright, or the top two moving forward if no one reaches 60 percent but a pair at least touch 40 percent.

The open Republican gubernatorial race was the main attraction as seven candidates competed for convention votes including Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who has retiring Gov. Herbert’s endorsement and leads in the most recent polling, and former governor, US ambassador, and 2012 presidential candidate Jon Huntsman.

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Jersey House Competition

By Jim Ellis

April 27, 2020 — The Monmouth University Polling Institute conducted a statewide poll of the New Jersey electorate (April 16-19; 704 New Jersey adults, 635 registered New Jersey voters, 96 percent of whom said they are certain or likely to vote in November) and while the results returned predictable figures in the presidential and Senate races, an interesting tidbit about the House races came to light.

In the presidential race, former vice president Joe Biden led President Trump 54-38 percent according to Monmouth’s latest New Jersey poll, and Sen. Cory Booker (D) led his strongest potential Republican opponent, 55-32 percent. Both sets of numbers were predictable and consistent with recent Garden State voting history.

New Jersey congressional districts: Districts 1, 6, 8, 9, 10, and 12 are the six safe seats. Districts 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 11 comprise the competitive sector.

Though the Monmouth pollsters didn’t test the individual House races, they did ask the partisan preference question and segmented the congressional districts into two campaign categories, the competitive group and the non-competitive group.

Statewide, 50 percent of the respondents said they would vote for the Democratic candidate for the US House of Representatives as compared to 38 percent who would choose the Republican contender. But when looking at the competitive House category, Republicans look to have a glimmer of hope of potentially recapturing some of the seats they lost in the 2018 election.

In that year, Democrats converted Districts 2, 3, 7, and 11, gaining four seats and leaving the 12-member NJ federal delegation with only one Republican member at the outset, Rep. Chris Smith (R-Hamilton) in the 4th CD. Since the election, Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis Township/Atlantic City) changed parties after being elected as a Democrat. All of these seats, including District 4, and 5 in northern New Jersey (Rep. Josh Gottheimer-D), comprise the competitive sector. Districts 1, 6, 8, 9, 10, and 12 are the six safe seats.

In the “safe” House category, 56 percent of respondents said they would vote for the Democratic candidate as compared to 31 percent who aligned themselves with the eventual Republican general election candidate. In the competitive districts, however, by a 46-45 percent plurality, the respondents said they would vote for the Republican candidate. Considering that Rep. Gottheimer will not be seriously challenged, the GOP numbers in the truly contested districts should even be stronger. This type of result should continue to make many of the Garden State seats prime 2020 Republican national targets.

The safe seats, with all incumbents seeking re-election, are held by Reps. Donald Norcross (D-Camden City), Frank Pallone (D-Long Branch), Albio Sires (D-West New York), Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson), Donald Payne (D-Newark), and Bonnie Coleman Watson (D-Ewing Township).

The competitive seats feature party-switching Rep. Van Drew seeking his first re-election. He looks strong in the Republican primary – a first vote as a party’s new incumbent can be difficult – and will face either college professor Brigid Callahan Harrison or Amy Kennedy, wife of former US Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), in what should be a competitive general election. With a solid Republican primary victory, Rep. Van Drew will be favored in November.

The 3rd District may be the Democrats’ most vulnerable seat. Freshman Rep. Andy Kim (D-Bordentown) upset then-Rep. Tom MacArthur (R) in 2018, and now faces what should be a strong GOP opponent. Venture capitalist David Richter, who was originally running in the 2nd District until Rep. Van Drew became a Republican, is considered the favorite for the GOP primary, and he appears to be a strong challenger for Rep. Kim but will have less time to develop the campaign. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) has moved the state primary from June 2 to July 7.

NJ-3 looks to be the most likely of the New Jersey seats to flip. Until Kim won here two years ago, and except for a one-term lag, Republicans had held this southern New Jersey seat since 1979.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-Hamilton), who was first elected to the House in 1980, looks to face an easier re-election contest this year than he did two years ago. In an election when he was the Republicans’ lone survivor, Rep. Smith scored a 55-43 percent victory.

Freshman Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Rocky Hill) will almost assuredly face state Senate Minority Leader and former statewide candidate Tom Kean Jr. Sen. Kean’s father, Tom Kean, served as New Jersey’s governor from 1982-1990. This race promises to be a premier contest in a district that a Republican has represented since 1981 until Malinowski won in the most recent vote.

In northern New Jersey’s 11th District, freshman Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair/Morristown) who won another traditionally strong Republican seat that the party had held since consecutively since 1985, stands for her first re-election. Her challenger is consensus Republican candidate Rosemary Becchi, an attorney and former Capitol Hill committee staff member, who was originally challenging Tom Kean Jr. for the party nod in the 7th District.

Party leaders were able to convince her to run in the 11th CD and helped clear the field. She will be a credible challenger to Rep. Sherrill, but the congresswoman is such a strong fundraiser (already has raised $3.4 million for this election) that the race will be a difficult one for Sherrill despite what should be a favorable district.

With Republicans developing a strong slate of New Jersey US House candidates in places where they have traditionally been successful, the Garden State elections will go a long way toward determining if the GOP has any chance of re-claiming the House majority. If the Democrats stem the tide here, they very likely will retain control.

Polling At Odds

By Jim Ellis

April 24, 2020 — A series of surveys were conducted by several independent pollsters in the most critical states that will likely determine the outcome of the 2020 presidential campaign, and the results are somewhat conflicting.

Largely consistent data comes in polls from three pollsters: Fox News, Ipsos, and Quinnipiac University. They surveyed the electorates in Florida (Quinnipiac), Michigan (Fox News and Ipsos), Pennsylvania (Fox News and Ipsos), and Wisconsin (Ipsos). All of the studies were conducted during the April 15-21 period. The pollsters did not collaborate, each directing their own surveys individually.

The results in all of these states found former vice president Joe Biden leading President Trump, obviously a strong positive sign for Biden since the candidate carrying the preponderance of these particular states will win the national election.

The Biden advantage in each poll ranges from three percentage points (Ipsos in Wisconsin) to eight (Fox News in both Pennsylvania and Michigan; Ipsos in Michigan).

Florida is one of the core states for President Trump, meaning that it’s one of the five most important places that he must carry to win the election. Here, Quinnipiac finds Biden leading the incumbent, 46-42 percent, which is more exaggerated than most current Sunshine State polls. We must also acknowledge that Republicans have been under-polling in Florida during recent elections by approximately two percentage points. If typical Florida political trends continue through this election, we will see a very close final tally.

The Great Lakes states covered in this Update are all in the swing category, and President Trump will have to at least carry one of them to claim a national victory. Conversely, if the President holds his five core states (Arizona, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas), then Biden would likely be forced to carry all of the Great Lakes’ swings: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Another research entity is also in the picture, however. Change Research, polling for CNBC (April 17-18; 5,787 likely voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) also tested the critical battleground states just after the other pollsters completed their questioning phase. The CNBC poll, as well, was an independent undertaking and not executed in conjunction with any other research firm.

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This Time in 2016

By Jim Ellis

Does Arizona hold the key in a Trump-Biden candidacy?

April 23, 2020 — It is interesting to revert back to April of 2016 to see just how Donald Trump was faring against Hillary Clinton and compare those results with today’s survey research. Thanks to the Real Clear Politics website and their polling archives, the day-by-day polling data from four years ago is still available so we can track the Trump-Clinton campaign historical progress with the new Trump-Joe Biden impending national contest.

The key point to remember about national presidential polling is that the aggregate ballot test means very little yet is the subject of most political research studies. Knowing what voters think about the campaign in places like Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin is much more important when attempting to project a final outcome, but we see far fewer numbers coming from these places than we do nationally.

In 2016, we will remember that almost all analysts and political prognosticators were predicting a Clinton win, and virtually all national polling was revealing an advantage for the former secretary of state, US senator, and First Lady, yet Trump emerged the winner. After the election, most surface analysis reported that the polling was in error, but such was not generally the case. The preponderance of polling, which predicted a narrow Clinton popular vote victory was actually correct; as we will remember, Clinton finished ahead of Trump in a close plurality.

With this background in mind, let’s look at what the various polling firms are projecting this month for the Trump-Biden race and compare it to the available data from 2016.

In April 2016, through the 15th of the month, three national polls had been released from individual or collaborating media entities: CBS News (April 8-12), NBC News/Wall Street Journal (April 10-14), and Fox News (April 11-13). This year, we see a more active April polling month that yields nine studies from eight different pollsters.

In 2016, the three testing entities all predicted Hillary Clinton to be holding the advantage over Donald Trump, by margins of 10 (CBS), 11 (NBC/WSJ), and 7 (Fox) percentage points. A little over six months later, Clinton would carry the national popular vote by 2.1 percentage points but lose the presidency because the key states broke toward Trump, which added up to an Electoral College win.

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Money Report: The Runoffs

By Jim Ellis

April 22, 2020 — Continuing with our analysis of certain 1st quarter 2020 fundraising numbers, today we look at the upcoming runoff elections that are happening in Alabama, North Carolina, and Texas.

In Alabama, former US attorney general and ex-three term senator Jeff Sessions, and retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville move to a postponed July 14 runoff that was originally scheduled for March 31. Tuberville placed first in the primary election by one percentage point over former Sen. Sessions, attempting to make a political comeback and overcome his national feud with President Trump. The longer runoff cycle may give Sessions the opportunity for a rebound.

Though Tuberville finished first, he is behind Sessions in campaign resources though both have plenty with which to compete. For the campaign, Sessions has spent $3.81 million as compared to Tuberville’s $2.84 million. In the first quarter, Tuberville outraised Sessions by just over $40,000. Tuberville raised $785,513 in the first quarter and had $458,519 in his campaign account at the end of March. While Sessions posted a bit less at $743,861, he has more cash-on-hand: $749,235. These numbers tell us that both men will be able to deliver their respective campaign messages before the July 14 vote.

In the Alabama House runoffs, Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl (R) outpolled former state senator Bill Hightower (R-Mobile) but not in first quarter fundraising. Hightower led the dollar pace with $344,627 raised versus $169,785, but as a local political official, Carl has been attracting a great deal of earned media because of area coronavirus protection messages. Cash-on-hand is virtually equal, with both men holding slightly more than $200,000. Carl spent $1.3 million in the primary opposite Hightower’s $858,000.

The 2nd District runoff features self-funding businessman Jeff Coleman, who placed first in the Republican primary against former state representative, Barry Moore. The big story here is Coleman financing just short of $1 million for his almost $2 million primary campaign. With Moore raising only $46,137 for the entire 1st quarter, it appears Coleman will be very difficult to overcome in the runoff election.

In North Carolina just one run-off is occurring — in White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ former 11th District. The Republican contest features Meadows’ endorsed candidate, former Haywood County Republican Party chair Lynda Bennett and real estate company owner Madison Cawthorn. Bennett placed first in the primary, and has an edge in fundraising, but Cawthorn was able to self-fund to a degree of $311,000.

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