Category Archives: Presidential campaign

Why Arizona is So Pivotal

By Jim Ellis

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

Sept. 16, 2020 — For several reasons, the Grand Canyon State of Arizona is possibly the most important state on the political map to determine the ultimate presidential election outcome.

Primarily, Arizona is one of five core states that President Trump must win to form a foundation for a favorable remaining state coalition map. The other four, geographically from west to east, are Texas, Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina. Should Joe Biden break through in any one of these five states, he will likely win the national election.

At this point, Arizona appears to be the most precarious of the Trump core states. While the President’s numbers are improving here, the September polls find him trailing Biden in all six publicly released surveys from a range of one to nine points among likely voters, with a mean average of Biden plus-4, and a median of Biden plus-3.5.

The five states are so critical to President Trump, or any Republican national candidate, because, as a unit, they yield a relatively easy remaining victory map. Carrying the five southern sector domains and assuming no leakage in Ohio or Iowa, and even while not winning Nevada or New Hampshire, the GOP nominee then claims the presidency with a victory in any one of the key Great Lakes states: Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin. For a Democrat to win under this scenario, he or she would be forced to sweep the aforementioned quartet.

President Trump won the 2016 Electoral College vote 306-232, which means he can relinquish a net 36 electoral votes in 2020 and still win the national election. Under the scenario of him taking either Wisconsin or Minnesota, along with keeping Arizona, he would defeat Biden with exactly 270 electoral votes. This model also assumes he wins the 2nd Congressional District from both Nebraska and Maine, the two states that split their electoral votes. He won both in 2016. Under this scenario, Michigan and Pennsylvania would go to Biden.

Arizona, now potentially teetering toward the Democrats, is critical to the president’s prospects because Trump cannot afford to trade it for one of the western Great Lakes States, either Minnesota or Wisconsin. Such a loss would force the president to win two of the four Great Lakes, but only one could be Minnesota or Wisconsin since those two states have 10 electoral votes and Arizona has 11.

Therefore, simply put, losing Arizona because of its 11th electoral vote would mean that Trump would be forced to carry either Michigan or Pennsylvania in addition to one of the other three remaining Great Lakes States. A further scenario involving Trump losing Arizona and replacing it with both of the 10-electoral vote states (MN and WI) could result in the election ending in a 269-269 tie. This would force a tiebreaker to be decided in the US House of Representatives.

Let’s look at the chances of Trump winning Arizona by comparing his current standing to where he was at this point in 2016. Looking at the Real Clear Politics polling archives, we find that 19 Arizona polls were conducted during the entire 2016 election cycle. In 2020, just since the July 4th holiday break, 25 surveys were publicly reported in the Grand Canyon State.

Four years ago, at the end of August through mid-September, two individual polls came from Gravis Marketing (Aug. 25-27, 2016) and NBC News/Marist College (Sept. 6-8, 2016). These surveys yielded Trump four and one-point leads, respectively. Shortly thereafter, the trend began to turn Hillary Clinton’s way. The OH Predictive Insights survey (Sept. 28-30, 2016) found the two candidates tied at 42 percent apiece, while Emerson College (Oct. 2-4, 2016) and the Arizona Republic newspaper poll (Oct. 10-15, 2016) detected consecutive leads for Clinton of two and five points.

Therefore, Arizona did not turn toward Trump for good until the Monmouth University survey in late October (Oct. 21-24, 2016), which put him just one point ahead. Going into the election from that point, and remembering the 2016 election was on Nov. 8, Trump led in the final four polls from a two to five-point margin. He would eventually win the actual vote count by 3.6 percentage points, 48.7 – 45.1 percent, meaning a raw vote margin of 91,234 votes of more than 2.573 million ballots cast.

Because of Arizona’s fast population growth, the state has changed in four years. During that interval, the overall population expanded five percentage points to 7,278,717 individuals according to the Census Bureau’s July 2019 estimate, the latest available.

Minorities, specifically Hispanics and blacks, account for approximately 69 percent of the population gain, thus at least partially explaining Biden’s improved prospects in the state. Overall, Hispanics represent 31.7 percent of the overall Arizona population, and blacks 5.2 percent, as compared to the non-Hispanic white position receding to 54.1 percent.

The population changes suggest that this already tight political state will likely become even closer as we head for Nov. 3.

A Polling Comparison

By Jim Ellis

Neck-and-neck polling in a few key battleground states between President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden shows interesting parallels to the 2016 race between Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Sept. 10, 2020 — With a plethora of presidential polls being released every week providing sometimes radically diverse results, it is often difficult to draw a clear picture of where the electorate is heading.

The conventional wisdom and preponderance of polling trends suggest that Joe Biden is leading the presidential race, but that President Trump is making a comeback, and the race is beginning to show some of the same characteristics found in 2016.

Three of the key states that baffled the political pollsters four years ago were Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. As we will remember, President Trump was expected to lose them all but scored close upset victories in each place.

The aggregate group of 2016 pollsters missed in each of the three states and the Real Clear Politics polling archives still publicly maintains all of those survey results. Therefore, we have the historical data to draw clear parallels between then and now.

In Wisconsin, 33 polls were taken during the election cycle and only one, from the Trafalgar Group at the end of the campaign season, placed Trump in front. A total of 62 polls were conducted in Pennsylvania with only three, again including a Trafalgar poll, projecting the future president into the lead. In Michigan, 42 polls were publicly released with Trump ahead in just two.

Though it is not generally statistically significant to average polling results because the polling methodologies, and certainly sample sizes, are very different, doing so does give us a guide as to the error factor that was present in 2016, and possibly a glimpse into what might exist this year.

In Wisconsin, the average Hillary Clinton lead advancing into the general election was 6.5 percentage points. With a 0.7 percent win for Trump, the overall error factor became a whopping 7.2 percent. The Pennsylvania numbers were closer but still a significant miss. Clinton’s average lead heading into Election Day was 2.1 percent and the president won there by the same 0.7 percent that he carried Wisconsin. Therefore, the Keystone State error factor was 2.8. Michigan was a similar story. Error factor: Clinton plus-3.6 percent. Trump victory margin: just 0.3. Total Michigan error factor: 3.9.

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The Presidential Debates Loom

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 1, 2020 — The Presidential Debate series looms on the political horizon, and controversy is beginning to swirl even though the first forum is still a month away.

The first in a series of currently three presidential debates is set for Sept. 29.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week that Democratic nominee Joe Biden shouldn’t debate President Trump. “I wouldn’t legitimize a conversation with him, nor a debate in terms of the presidency of the United States,” she was quoted as saying at a news conference.

At the end of July, former Bill Clinton news secretary Joe Lockhart wrote for CNN.com that Biden shouldn’t debate the president. “Whatever you do, don’t debate Trump. Trump has now made more than 20,000 misleading or false statements according to the Washington Post,” Lockhart penned as public advice to Biden.

Some on the Republican side argue that these Democratic leaders are beginning to lay the groundwork for Biden to avoid the debates because of concerns their candidate would fare poorly opposite President Trump.

For his part, Biden says he will debate the president, and become his own “fact checker on the floor.” He will also begin holding campaign events after Labor Day. In an Aug. 28 interview with the Associated Press, Biden said he’ll “meet people where it matters – not at irresponsible rallies or staged for TV to boost egos, but real people’s communities, in real local businesses, in their lives.” Biden further said he’ll “hold events consistent with the state rules about crowd sizes and other regulations.”

The first debate is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 29, the second on Thursday, Oct. 15, and the final forum culminates a week later on Oct. 22. The vice presidential debate between incumbent Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 7.

The debates have proven important in the past and always draw large audiences. According to the Pew Research Center, even the first televised debate, between then-Sen. John F. Kennedy and then-Vice President Richard Nixon, drew over 66 million viewers usually on black and white televisions, at a time when the US population was just under 181 million people, or approximately 55 percent of today’s total populace.

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The Polling Extremes

By Jim Ellis

Former vice president and 2020 presidential candidate, Joe Biden (D)

July 31, 2020 — Two survey research organizations, Morning Consult and Change Research, just released the results of their recent battleground states polling series. Looking at all the recent public data in these places illustrates the polling volatility and movement within the states that will ultimately decide the presidential election.

The ballot test results listed for each state below illustrates the most extreme examples for President Trump and former vice president Joe Biden during the mid to late July period. With such a wide variance in most places, it is difficult to say with any certainty exactly how these defining states will actually perform come Election Day.

President Donald Trump

It is also important to take into account sample size, sample segmentation, and whether the poll was conducted through live interview, online questioning, or an interactive voice response system.


ARIZONA
• Morning Consult (JULY 17-26, 908 likely Arizona voters)
Joe Biden (D) ………….. 49% (+7)
Donald Trump (R) ……. 42%
• Change Research (July 24-26, 365 likely Arizona voters; targeted online sample)
Joe Biden (D) ………….. 47% (+2)
Donald Trump (R) ……. 45%

Arizona surveys have consistently yielded small leads for Biden over the past several months. Most of the recent results find the candidates falling within the polling margin of error.


FLORIDA
• Morning Consult (July 17-26, 3,593 likely Florida voters; online)
Donald Trump (R) ……. 48% (+1)
Joe Biden (D) ………….. 47%
• Quinnipiac University (July 16-20, 924 registered Florida voters; live interview)
Joe Biden (D) ………….. 51% (+13)
Donald Trump (R) ……. 38%

This is the most divergent spread within all of the battleground states. Florida’s polling history has routinely featured wide polling ranges that result in close election results.
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Beneath the Numbers

By Jim Ellis

Is Maine Sen. Susan Collins (R) in trouble?

July 30, 2020 — Two Senate polls were released earlier this week, and though the ballot tests in Maine and South Carolina didn’t show us anything particularly new, the pollsters asked their respective sampling universes some interesting ancillary questions.

Colby College, a Waterville, Maine institution housing approximately 1,800 students, released its second political poll of 2020 in conjunction with the McVey Data Science Initiative. The questions touched upon the presidential and Senate ballot tests but delved deeper into the attitudes and perspectives of their 888-person sample over the July 18-24 period.

The presidential ballot test found former vice president Joe Biden leading President Trump statewide, 50-38 percent. The Senate ballot test was closer in that former state House speaker Sara Gideon (D) leads Sen. Susan Collins (R), 44-39 percent.

In looking deeper, it is probable that the actual race standings are likely a bit closer. There appears to be a Democratic skew in that all favorability indexes for Democratic public officials were positive and those of the tested Republican officials were decidedly negative. Additionally, 52 percent of the sampling universe comes from the state’s southern congressional district, the 1st, which is decidedly more liberal than the northern 2nd District. Together, these factors provide us the indication that the results are a few points more favorable for Democrats than what we might see in actual voting.

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