Category Archives: Presidential campaign

Arizona’s Importance

By Jim Ellis

Does Arizona hold the key in the Trump-Biden election?

Oct. 9, 2020 — Now moving quickly toward Election Week, it is becoming apparent that the ultimate bellwether state for the 2020 presidential election is the Grand Canyon State of Arizona. Formerly a rock solid Republican political domain, the state has been trending toward the political center in recent elections, most particularly 2018.

Coming into the closing weeks of this year’s presidential campaign, it appears that Arizona may be this election’s “tell.” While it’s possible mathematically for President Trump to win in the Electoral College without Arizona, realistically doing so may be a bridge too far.

The principal reason is Arizona has 11 electoral votes, and the idea that Trump could replace it with taking Wisconsin or Minnesota, for example, fails because those states each have 10 votes. Therefore, losing Arizona would lead to him either falling into a tie, or losing the national electoral vote count, 270-268.

The latter electoral vote margin occurs if he also drops the 2nd Congressional District of Nebraska, a state that is one of a pair to split their electoral votes. The most recent public NE-2 poll, from Siena College/New York Times (Aug. 25-27; 420 NE-2 likely voters, live interview), finds the president trailing former vice president Joe Biden in the Omaha metro district, 41-48 percent.

The Trump math also fails without Arizona even if he carries Pennsylvania as his lone Great Lakes State. Losing Arizona, Michigan, and Wisconsin from his 2016 state coalition map, along with NE-2, would also yield a 270-268 Biden victory.

Earlier this week, the Data Orbital polling firm headquartered in Phoenix and is the most prolific survey research firm in testing the Arizona electorate from statewide through local offices, released their latest presidential and US Senate numbers. Their poll (Oct. 3-5; 550 likely Arizona voters, live interview) is the first Arizona survey taken wholly after both the first presidential debate and President Trump being hospitalized for COVID-19.

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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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The Scenario: There’s an Electoral College Tie in the Presidential
Election; What Happens Next?

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 23, 2020 — As we move closer to Election Day, various scenarios are being discussed and theorized about who will win the presidential race and which states will fall to what candidate. A little-mentioned outcome, which is a mathematical possibility, is an Electoral College tie.

A deadlock would occur if each candidate received 269 electoral votes. Based upon the 2016 result, which saw President Trump receiving 306 electoral votes to Hillary Clinton’s 232, a tie would occur if the incumbent were to lose exactly 37 electoral votes from his previous performance.

The easiest way for that to occur is if President Trump and former vice president Joe Biden were to build the same coalition of states with the exception of Pennsylvania, Michigan and the 2nd District of Nebraska going from the Republican to Democratic column. In this instance, the two 2020 candidates, Trump and Biden, would have 269 electoral votes apiece.

If this were to happen, how is a tie in the Electoral College resolved? The answer: in the House of Representatives. The difference between the vote for president and a regular House vote is that individual members do not have his or her own vote for president. Rather, each state delegation has one vote.

Therefore, California, for example, with its 53 House members gets one vote for president. Conversely, the at-large states with one House member, such as Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming, would also each get one vote. So the vote for president skews toward the small states and rural regions.

Interestingly though, the Democrats control the House majority with 232 members and one Democratic vacancy to 198 Republican seats with one Libertarian sitting in what is typically a Republican seat and three GOP vacancies. Yet, if partisanship holds, the Republicans would win a presidential election vote 26 to 23 with one state, Pennsylvania, in a 9-9 split delegation. Assuming that the Keystone delegation would fail to agree on a candidate, the state would not be able to cast its vote.

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Pennsylvania Voting Rules

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 21, 2020 — Pennsylvania’s Democratic controlled Supreme Court changed their state election procedures late last week in a series of rulings on a lawsuit that the Pennsylvania Secretary of State and PA Democratic Party previously filed.

Under the new process, receiving votes after the election is allowed if “no evidence exists” that the ballot was mailed after Election Day, Nov. 3. The deadline for ballot acceptance now moves from 8 pm on Election Day to 5 pm, Friday, Nov. 6. Pennsylvania becomes the 17th state to allow post-election reception for this 2020 election. The ruling increases the chances that we will not have a winner declared on election night.

Additionally, three other rulings will allow drop boxes to be used as ballot receptacles in the various counties, affirmed that poll watchers can only serve in their own county of residence, and Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins’ name was removed from the ballot. The court did not grant the lawsuit motion to allow ballot harvesting, which would permit third parties to deliver ballots to the authorities or ballot drop boxes.

The drop boxes will be placed in various locations around a county and voters can deposit their ballots without using the postal service to transfer their vote to the county election authorities. Hawkins’ name was removed from the ballot because the court said he “failed to comply with the Election Code’s strict mandate” and the attempts to fix the problem “did not suffice to cure that error,” but the specifics were not addressed.

With the large number of absentee ballots expected here and in other states, the trend toward allowing post-election reception, and the laws that some states, like Pennsylvania, have to control when the mail ballots can be counted, makes it less likely that we will see a definitive presidential campaign result on Nov. 3. The same will be true for certain US Senate and House races.

Of the 17 states, now including Pennsylvania, that are allowing post-election ballot reception, seven appear competitive. The others, Alaska, California, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia will likely declare a clear winner relatively early in the counting period.

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Reading North Carolina

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 17, 2020 — CNN released new North Carolina poll results earlier this week, and we again see a familiar pattern unfolding. There has been a Republican under-poll in the southern states detected in the past few elections, and the North Carolina pattern appears to form relatively consistently upon studying its most competitive statewide races in 2014, ’16, and what may be happening in 2020. There were no statewide Tar Heel State contests in 2018.

The CNN poll (conducted through the SSRS statistical firm; Sept. 9-13; 787 likely North Carolina voters; live interview through landline and mobile phones) found former vice president Joe Biden leading President Trump, 49-46 percent; Democratic US Senate nominee Cal Cunningham edging incumbent Republican Thom Tillis, 47-46 percent; and Gov. Roy Cooper (D) easily outdistancing Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, 53-44 percent.

How do these mid-September races compare with other campaigns at this same interval, and what does that tell us for autumn?

First, the CNN poll is one of seven polls conducted in North Carolina during the month of September, and its three-point margin for Biden is the Democrat’s second-best showing within this group. The only better Biden performance came from the Fox News poll at the beginning of September (Aug. 29-Sept. 1; 722 likely North Carolina voters, live interview), which posted him to a four-point, 50-46 percent, advantage.

Among the five other surveys, Biden is ahead in two, President Trump in two, and one has the pair tied at 47 percent apiece (Survey USA for WRAL-TV; Sept. 10-13; 596 likely North Carolina voters). From the eight polls conducted from Aug. 29-Sept. 13, Biden’s edge is just 0.7 percent, meaning the two candidates average to a statistical tie.

Recent political history suggests that this type of an average spread sets up well for President Trump, and possibly Sen. Tillis. It appears that Gov. Cooper’s margin is beyond the statistically relevant late-term Republican swing.

In September of 2016, a total of 14 publicly released polls were conducted during that month. Within this group, Hillary Clinton led in 10 of the surveys with an average spread of 2.4 percentage points. Trump was ahead in just three polls with an average margin of 2.0 percent. Two polls found the candidates tied. Therefore, Clinton’s overall September edge was an average 1.1 percent.

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