Category Archives: House

The Spending Clues

By Jim Ellis

nrcc-dcccSept. 28, 2018 — The old saying, “put your money where your mouth is,” certainly applies to campaign politics, and we have new evidence of that. Currently, there is much conjecture and banter about which candidates are going to win various House races, including media prognosticators making predictions about how the Nov. 6 election will unfold, but a better clue as to what the party leaders actually believe can be found in their spending reports.

Looking at the most recent independent expenditures from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) tells us which races the party leadership believes are their top current priorities. For a full report on all recent expenditures, check the Daily Kos Elections blog, Daily-Kos-Elections-Live-Digest-9-26.

Though the latest expenditure reports tell us which are the hot, undecided races, they don’t provide the entire picture. Media market size and previous expenditure amounts also must be considered, particularly the former. For example, a $378,000 DCCC media buy in the 2nd District of Kansas is major, whereas spending $375,000 in Nevada’s 3rd District wholly contained in the expensive Las Vegas market isn’t nearly as large even though the dollar amounts are equivalent.

That being the said, the districts where the DCCC is spending more than $500,000 in current expenditures are:
• VA-10: Against Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-McLean) – $567,000
• MN-1: Open seat defense district – $539,000
• WA-8: Open seat conversion opportunity – $518,000
• NV-4: Open seat defense district – $508,000
• MN-8: Open seat defense district – $500,000

The NRCC is spending similar amounts but not as much in:
• WA-8: $484,000
• FL-26: Protecting Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Miami) – $435,000
• VA-10: $422,000

Obviously, the VA-10 and WA-8 races are very hot because both districts are at the top of each party’s expenditure lists.
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The Healthcare Attacks

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 27, 2018 — Now that the economy is rolling, surveys are beginning to show that jobs and taxes are lesser campaign issues.

Some state and district polls indicate that the economy is dropping from the most important issue commonly cited all the way down to number three. Depending on the district or state location, immigration moves into the second slot, while healthcare now becomes the top concern. Most research consistently finds these three issues, in some order, as the most important set of topics that could move voters in an election, however.

Therefore, it is not surprising to see the two major party congressional arms attacking their opponents about healthcare, but from very different perspectives. The method of attack is becoming prevalent in virtually all of the top campaigns.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) ad attacking Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) in a suburban Chicago race

Democrats, usually using the DCCC as their message delivery entity, though the House Majority PAC, which is the Democrats’ main outside organization commonly involved in congressional races, is also a major part of the attack portfolio, hits Republican incumbents for voting to end coverage for pre-existing conditions.

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TX-31: Carter vs. Hegar

TX-31 -- The 31st Congressional District in Texas

TX-31 — The 31st Congressional District in Texas


By Jim Ellis

Sept. 26, 2018
–For the first time since his original election to the House back in 2002, Texas Rep. John Carter (R-Round Rock) has drawn a top-tier Democratic challenger.

Consultant and Afghanistan War veteran M.J. Hegar (D) is giving the veteran congressman all he can handle, but a new Democratic poll finds him still hanging onto to a lead despite absorbing over $1 million in money spent opposing him.

Some of Hegar’s expenditures included financing an introductory 3:29 minute promotional video that went viral nationally and attracted well over 2.8 million views. The video, mostly about Hegar’s military career and being wounded in action, her life after the service, and the battle to allow women in combat, also created a fundraising bonanza.

Much of the money was used to tangentially hit Rep. Carter because Hegar first had to clear a four-person Democratic primary and run-off, an election that saw her placing first in the primary (44 percent), and then scoring a 62-37 percent win in the Democratic run-off vote.

The Anzalone Liszt Grove Research firm just released their second 31st District poll and the first since July. The survey (Sept. 16-20; 500 likely TX-31 voters) finds Rep. Carter leading Hegar, 46-42 percent. In July, the congressman’s margin was 48-39 percent.

The analysis indicates that Hegar is the candidate who is moving forward because she has shaved a net five percentage points from the previous lead but, considering that her campaign has been on offense and Carter defense suggests that the race could have moved more substantially.

The ALG analysis also points out that Hegar has more room to grow because her hard and soft name identification is 60 percent. Yet, they illustrate that Carter’s 63 percent name ID is weak for an incumbent. They omit to conclude, however, that the congressman can also better define himself among the 37 percent that do not possess a clear opinion of him, more of whom are more likely to be his voters than hers.

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Health Care Politics

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 18, 2018 — In virtually every poll, health care is mentioned in the top three of the most important issues across the country. Therefore, ad themes attacking the problem from both ends of the political spectrum are now regularly appearing in every competitive congressional campaign.

The Democrats are zeroing in on Republican incumbents, in particular, on the pre-existing condition issue claiming that the GOP is trying to eliminate insurance coverage for those having previous health problems. The Dems support this argument by pointing to the Affordable Care Act repeal vote.

(Dr. Kim Shrier ad)

Republicans are now mounting an offensive against the pitch that many Democrats are promoting when they call for expanding Medicare coverage for everyone as the solution to the nation’s health insurance problem.

Both the campaigns themselves and various independent expenditure groups are attacking from both angles, and four ads presented below are typical examples of what we are seeing across the nation.

Washington Democrat Kim Shrier is running for the Seattle area district from which Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Auburn) is retiring. She is a pediatrician, so naturally healthcare is a key theme for her campaign. Dr. Shrier is opposing Republican former state senator and statewide nominee Dino Rossi in what is clearly a toss-up campaign.

Rossi and Dr. Shrier topped a field of 12 candidates in the Washington jungle primary held on Aug. 7. The Republican, by far the most well-known candidate of the group, placed first with 43.1 percent of the vote. Dr. Shrier nipped fellow Democrat Jason Rittereiser, 18.7 – 18.1 percent to advance into the general election. But, in the aggregate, Democrats earned slightly more votes than Republicans in the district-wide primary vote 50.2 – 47.2 percent.

One of Dr. Shrier’s healthcare campaign ads is included above as a good example of how Democrats are attacking Republicans, particularly over the pre-existing condition issue. Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Overland Park) goes on the attack against his opponent, former White House fellow (Obama Administration) and professional Mixed Martial Arts boxer Sharice Davids (D), over her promoting “Medicare for all” and claims that such will lead to the elimination of private health insurance.

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The Polling Machine

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 17, 2018 — In news that got pushed aside because of all of last week’s primaries, the Siena College Research Institute entered into a polling partnership with the New York Times to survey what the news organization spokespeople indicate will be nearly 100 US House campaigns. The Times’ statement also says more people will be “talked to (in sampling groups) than ever before.”

sienna-college-research-institute-jim-ellis-insightThe other interesting twist is that the results will be published in real time, meaning readers can see the responses as they are being recorded. The full sample is targeted to be in the 500 range per congressional district, a very healthy size. But readers should be cautioned about trying to project a pattern before the individual respondent universe is fully developed.

Siena College has been the featured New York Times pollster for several election cycles, concentrating on New York races. They regularly poll the state to test a governor’s approval rating, and how the electorate rates certain state-related and federal issues, along with conducting candidate ballot tests.

The 538 political analytics organization, which rates national, regional, and local pollsters, among other research, awards Siena an A grade in both the 2016 and 2018 election cycles, saying they have called 82 percent of the races correctly from 66 political surveys (60 in the 2016 election cycle, and six this year).

Siena records an average polling error rate of 4.9 percent, and concentrates on the live phoner method that includes conducting some respondent interviews on cell phones. The 538 organization records a Siena bias factor toward the Democrats of just 0.1 percent, which ties for one of the lowest in the polling universe and behind only Iowa’s Selzer & Company and Fairleigh Dickinson University, which scored a perfect 0.0 percent bias factor rating.

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