Category Archives: Polling

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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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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Sen. Lindsey Graham’s Challenge

By Jim Ellis

Is incumbent Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in re-election trouble?

Sept. 18, 2020 — Quinnipiac University surveyed the South Carolina political situation as part of their three-state polling series, which again produces some eyebrow-raising data. The results help identify why Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator from a Republican state, finds himself languishing in a competitive contest.

The poll (Sept. 10-14; 969 likely South Carolina voters, live interview conducted by the RDD firm for Quinnipiac) tested both the presidential and Senate campaigns. President Trump leads former vice president Joe Biden 51-45 percent in a ballot test that seems to be an under-count when looking at the survey’s supporting numbers. Sen. Graham, however, falls into a tie with opponent Jaime Harrison, at 48-48 percent, in a result that the underlying responses do seem to support.

President Trump’s six-point lead appears low because he tops Biden on virtually every personal and issue question. The Trump favorability index is 51:45 percent positive to negative, but the Biden ratio is much worse at 43:50 percent. The generic Republican-Democrat number falls 52-44 percent in favor of the GOP label.

Despite poor coronavirus management numbers for the president nationally, this South Carolina survey returns a 49:48 percent approval number on his handling of the issue. Furthermore, the respondents, in a 50-46 percent break, believe President Trump would do a better job handling coronavirus in the future than Biden. Not a particularly strong performance in this issue area, but better for the President than in almost any other place.

Trump also scores better in his handling of the economy (55-40 percent), the military (54-42 percent), and “keeping your family safe” (52-43 percent). Biden is favored, and only barely, 48-46 percent, on just one issue: racial equality.

Most importantly, the issue matrix sets up perfectly for Trump. The top two issues, according to these respondents, are the ones upon which the president is basing his campaign, law and order (23 percent) and bringing back the economy (22 percent). The Biden key issues rate rather poorly: coronavirus (12 percent), racial equality (12 percent), and healthcare (10 percent).

All of these underlying numbers suggest the Trump ballot test margin should be stronger than six points, which could be a signal that there is a “shy Trump voter factor” even in what is typically a safe Republican state. The “shy Trump voter” is the phrase now used to describe the individual who only secretly favors the president.

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