Category Archives: Polling

Changes in House Race Ratings

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 6, 2020 — With the presidential race in a state of flux because of President Trump’s COVID diagnosis, it’s a good time to adjust House ratings in races where we see movement.

Freshman Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Laguna Beach) and Michelle Steele (R) battle in CA-48.

In our prognostications, we move one of our 21 previous toss-up races from that category and into Lean Democratic group.

In California’s 48th District, freshman Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Laguna Beach) defends what was formerly a safe Republican seat. Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel is the Republican general election qualifier and viewed as a strong contender.

Relentless media attack ads against her wealthy husband’s business dealings in China has put her on the defensive, however, which is never a good position for a challenger. At least for the time being, with now less than a month to go until Election Day, this race looks to be trending toward the Lean Democratic column.

We see more action in the “lean” sectors. Three Lean Democratic rated races are moving into the Toss-up grouping, while eight Lean Republican contests are likewise transferring to the most competitive category.

• FL-27: A Republican move in general has been detected in South Florida, which makes the re-match between freshman representative and former Health & Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala (D-Miami) and Spanish language news broadcaster Maria Elvira Salazar (R) more competitive.
In 2018, Shalala was elected with a 52-46 percent victory margin. The only published poll for this race was released at the beginning of September from the 1892 research organization (Oct. 2-6; 400 likely FL-27 voters, live interview) and it gave Salazar a surprising 48-45 percent advantage, and Democrats have not promoted any countering data.

• IA-1: A new survey from Basswood Research for the Congressional Leadership Fund (Sept. 26-28; 400 likely IA-1 voters) finds Iowa freshman Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Dubuque) and former television news anchor and state Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Cedar Rapids) now locked in a dead heat at 45 percent apiece.
The result is a considerable improvement for Hinson who had been trailing prior to this poll, but the latest numbers are reflective of the competitive nature of this eastern Iowa district that has flipped back and forth between Democratic and Republican representation during the decade.

• PA-17: According to reports from the district and the latest released public poll (OnMessage; Sept. 2-3; 400 likely PA-17 voters), Pennsylvania challenger Sean Parnell (R) has seized the momentum against Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburg). The OnMessage results find Parnell pulling to within one point (45-44 percent) of Rep. Lamb who, in 2018, won a 56-44 percent victory over then-Rep. Keith Rothfus (R). This is certainly a race to watch in a district where President Trump scored a two-point victory in 2016.
Most of the action moving into the toss-up category occurs for Democratic candidates. Below we see eight races moving from Lean Republican to Toss-up.

• AZ-6: Arizona Rep. David Schweikert (R-Fountain Hills/Scottsdale) agreeing that he committed eleven ethics and campaign finance violations has certainly put him on the defensive, particularly since his win percentage dropped to 55-45% in 2018. He had averaged 62.7% of the vote in his three previous re-election campaigns.
We have seen four public polls released here since August began, and both Rep. Schweikert and challenger Hiral Tipirneni (D), a physician who had previously run in the adjoining 8th District, were each leading in two of the four surveys. The margin between the two candidates fell between two and four points. Rep. Schweikert is clearly in trouble here, giving the Democrats a strong opportunity to convert this Republican seat.

• CA-25: California Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Santa Clarita) won a surprisingly large 10-point victory in the May 12 special election. The latest poll, however, finds Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Newhall) climbing back into the lead, again making this a toss-up campaign. The most recent survey comes from the Democratic firm, Normington Petts (Sept. 21-23; 400 likely CA-25 voters) and pushes Smith to a 51-45 percent advantage when leaners to each candidate are included. In late August, another Democratic pollster, the Global Strategy Group (Aug. 26-30; 400 likely CA-25 voters), gave Garcia a one-point, 46-45 percent, edge.

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The Sleeper Race?

By Jim Ellis

Republican candidate Mark Ronchetti (left) and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe/Santa Fe)

Oct. 5, 2020 — It seems every election cycle features a surprise Senate contest. This year, that campaign may reside in New Mexico.

For months, it’s been a foregone conclusion that Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe/Santa Fe) would succeed retiring Sen. Tom Udall (D). Recent polling, however, suggests that Republican challenger Mark Ronchetti may have been discounted a bit too early.

The latest polling trends clearly show a narrowing margin. A new Public Opinion Strategies survey for the Ronchetti campaign (Sept. 26-28; 500 registered New Mexico voters; live interview) finds the upstart Republican climbing to within six percentage points of Rep. Lujan, 46-40 percent.

In June, Public Policy Polling (June 12-13; 740 New Mexico voters) projected Lujan holding a predictable 14-point lead, 48-34 percent. At the beginning of September, the Research & Polling firm tested the state (Aug. 26-Sept. 2; 1,123 likely New Mexico voters, live interview) and saw Lujan’s edge slipping a bit to 49-40 percent. In the middle of last month, POS tested the race two weeks before their aforementioned survey and found an almost identical result when compared to their current offering. The mid-September ballot test yielded a 45-39 percent split.

Mark Ronchetti is a former chief meteorologist for the Albuquerque CBS television affiliate in a media market that covers about two-thirds of the state, since it stretches northward to Santa Fe and beyond. Therefore, Ronchetti has significant name identification, though not in relation to politics.

Rep. Lujan won the state’s northern congressional district in 2008, succeeding Udall when he was first elected to the Senate. Prior to his congressional service, the six-term incumbent was a four-year member of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission.

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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 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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