Category Archives: Presidential campaign

The Maine Event

By Jim Ellis

Maine Congressional Districts

May 20, 2020 — The small state of Maine, with its two congressional districts, is going to attract a great deal of political attention between now and the election. Not only is the Pine Tree State one of the firewalls for Republican Senate majority hopes, the domain, one of two places that splits its electoral votes, will likely play a major role in determining the presidential election outcome, as well.

Maine and Nebraska divide their electoral votes such that the winning statewide candidate earns two electoral votes, while the victor in each congressional district is awarded one EV for as many districts as they carry. Maine, as mentioned, has two districts, and Nebraska three.

These districts came into play both in 2008 and 2016, when Barack Obama carried the 2nd District of Nebraska against John McCain in the former year, and Donald Trump took the 2nd District of Maine opposite Hillary Clinton in 2016. While neither CD became a factor in determining each of those elections, these CDs breaking differently than their state in a tight national election could result in the Electoral College ending in a tie.

The 48 other states and the District of Columbia use the winner-take-all system. Any state could divide their electoral votes like Maine and Nebraska, but those are the only two who choose the split vote method.

In the current presidential election scenarios, whether or not President Trump again carries ME-2 could determine if he is re-elected. Under one scenario, former vice president Joe Biden could win the national race even if he failed to carry Wisconsin so long as he takes the 2nd District of Maine and 2nd District of Nebraska. Doing so, along with winning the other swing states that touch a Great Lake, meaning Michigan and Pennsylvania, he would secure exactly 270 electoral votes, the bare minimum to claim national victory.

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Nevada: A Target?

By Jim Ellis

May 8, 2020 — The Silver State of Nevada, with six Electoral College votes, has been regarded as a swing state in most 21st Century presidential elections, but in projecting the 2020 vote, it is routinely considered as a place destined to land in the Democratic column. But, could Nevada ultimately be in play for President Trump?

With a general election electoral vote map looking ever closer as we move toward November, introducing a new target could drastically change the eventual outcome or at least the campaign focus and strategy.

A new ALG Research poll (April 27-30; 76 likely Nevada general election voters) reports findings that are consistent with virtually all of the 2016 Nevada general election surveys. Last week, the firm found former vice president Joe Biden leading President Trump with a 49-45 percent spread. Such a margin and preference percentages fall into the same realm as all 31 polls conducted in Nevada from May through the November 2016 election.

When ‘16 ended, Hillary Clinton carried the state, but her margin was only 2.4 percentage points, meaning a 27,000-vote spread of more than 1.12 million ballots cast. And, consistent with the large number of polls that concluded a close race within the 40s would be the actual result, Clinton defeated Trump, 47.9 – 45.4 percent, validating the plethora of research conducted over the final five-plus months of that election cycle.

Four years ago, 13 different pollsters conducted the almost three dozen surveys, and in no instance did either Trump or Clinton ever reach the 50 percent plateau. On the other end of the spectrum, in just three instances did one of the candidates dip below 40 percent. Therefore, in 28 of the 31 studies logged within the 2016 Real Clear Politics polling archives, both candidates fell within the 40s, meaning this result occurred over 90 percent of the time. In terms of range, the span stretched from Clinton plus-7 to Trump plus-6, but the average between the two was only 2.7 percent, which is almost exactly the actual final total. This obviously suggests a competitive political battlefield.

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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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Wisconsin: A Precursor?

Wisconsin Congressional Districts

By Jim Ellis

April 16, 2020 — The April 7th Badger State primary election results were announced this Monday, and former vice president Joe Biden easily defeated Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), 63-32 percent, but that’s not the real story behind the final statewide totals.

The bigger race was an ostensibly nonpartisan state Supreme Court judicial election between appointed incumbent Daniel Kelly and Dane County Circuit Court judge Jill Karofsky. Though the Republican and Democratic labels did not appear on the ballot, both parties were heavily invested. And, with much money being spent and both sides “all-in”, many believed it to be a precursor to this year’s presidential campaign in a state that could well become the deciding factor nationally.

Wisconsin Republicans needed the seat to maintain their 5-2 majority on the court, and Democrats wanted to narrow the margin to 4-3 in order to position themselves to take the majority in the next election; hence, this contest’s importance.

Controversy surrounded whether to even hold the election. Democratic insiders and activists were lobbying Gov. Tony Evers (D) to petition the legislature to delay the vote because of the Coronavirus situation. Evers delayed taking action, but finally went to the legislature a week before the vote. The Republican legislative leaders turned Evers down, and subsequent court decisions backed the decision to hold the election on schedule, virtually the only state that was moving forward with an in-person voting mode.

The announced results gave Judge Karofsky a big 55-45 percent upset win, and whether or not this is a precursor to the presidential result remains to be seen. Some believe the fact that the Republican leadership was insisting on moving forward with the election – with people believing they wanted the election as scheduled because they felt the quicker vote favored them – resulted in a voter backlash; hence, Karofsky’s large margin in what was projected to be a much closer electoral contest.

Democrats fought hard to postpone the election and increase the mail-in facet – and most believe they wanted such because they perceived it favored them – but clearly won the election even under the voting structure that the Republicans desired.

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