Category Archives: Presidential campaign

Hillary Flies High on a Low-Flying Poll

A new Public Policy Polling national survey (Jan. 3-6; 1,100 registered voters; 400 Democratic and 536 regular Republican primary participants) projects Hillary Clinton to be in the strongest position of all potential 2016 presidential candidates from either party, but the poll has methodological flaws.

According to the data, Clinton would easily capture the Democratic nomination, scoring a 57-16 percent margin over Vice President Joe Biden. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren notched 4 percent, followed by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley at 3 percent, while Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner tallied 2 percent apiece.

The poll then paired only Clinton against a myriad of Republican potential candidates such as former vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Clinton beats them all in hypothetical individual ballot test match-ups, but early results such as these are inconsequential and particularly so in this poll. Of the aforementioned, Christie fares best coming within two points of Clinton, behind 42-44 percent. All of the others trail her in double-digits.
Continue reading >

Pennsylvania Electoral Votes

Pennsylvania state Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R) is at it again. In the last legislative session, Pileggi introduced legislation to apportion Pennsylvania’s electoral votes as opposed to continuing the winner-take-all system. Maine and Nebraska already split their small number of electoral votes, hence there is precedence for a state deciding to divide its presidential EV allotment.

In the period prior to the 2012 presidential election, Pennsylvania was viewed to be a battleground entity and the state bifurcating its votes would have undoubtedly helped the Republican nominee. The Pileggi bill would have awarded two votes to the presidential candidate winning the statewide vote and one apiece for each of the 18 Pennsylvania congressional districts.

Sen. Pileggi was unable to pass his bill because the state’s marginal district Republican congressmen were opposed to the concept. They believed the presidential campaigns targeting their specific districts for individual electoral votes would potentially make their own road to re-election more difficult. They convinced enough of their state legislative colleagues to derail the effort.

Now Pileggi has a different approach. His new bill will still award two votes for the presidential candidate winning the statewide vote, but then apportion the remaining 18 EVs based upon popular vote percentage for the candidates on the statewide ballot. Since Pennsylvania is a Democratic state, but a close one (in 2012 President Obama carried PA 52-47 percent, for example), the winning candidate (Obama) would have received the two at-large votes plus another 10 based upon winning 52 percent of the popular vote instead of 20 under winner-take-all. Republican nominee Mitt Romney would have received eight votes. The PA vote totals would more than likely split this way – the winner receiving 12, the loser eight – in virtually every election.

It remains to be seen if the senator can gather enough support among Republicans — Democrats will not support the idea because it will weaken their nominee — in both houses of the legislature in order to send the bill to Gov. Tom Corbett (R). But, one major obstacle — Republican congressional opposition — has ostensibly been eliminated under this new approach.

Unexpected Voter Turnout Patterns

We wish you the best for the happiest of Thanksgiving holidays. The PRIsm Political Updates will return Monday, Nov. 26.

The official state participation and candidate preference statistics are being released throughout the nation, and many of the numbers are quite surprising. While turnout was down nationally, it was up in most of the battleground states and, despite Pres. Barack Obama’s victory, it may be erroneous to assume that the turnout pattern completely favored him.

While it is clear the president obviously benefited from the voting preferences of the aggregate group of people who cast ballots during the election process, it is interesting to note that he was only able to return 91.5 percent of the total vote he received in 2008. In contrast, losing national Republican nominee Mitt Romney retained 99.4 percent of John McCain’s 2008 vote. Obviously Romney needed to do better than to simply equal McCain’s vote, but it is significant that Obama’s share of the vote declined by almost a full 10 percent from what he obtained four years ago, especially when understanding that the Obama campaign clearly had the superior grassroots organization.

Nationally, and rather astonishingly from what was widely forecast before the election, overall voter turnout was down six million votes from the number cast in 2008, or a fall-off of 4.7 percent. It appears that virtually all of the drop-off came from the Obama coalition, as the president’s vote receded by almost that same amount as did the national turnout (voter participation reduction: 6,148,768 individuals; Obama drop: 5,917,631 votes).

The four core states also recorded interesting turnout patterns. Of the quartet of places that Romney needed to convert if he were to unseat the president, it was North Carolina — the only state in this group that he did carry — that had the highest participation rate increase from 2008. North Carolina voter turnout was up 4.5 percent in comparison to their aggregate number of voters from four years ago. Virginia and Florida, two of the three core states that remained with the president, also saw increased participation. Virginia was up 3.5 percent; Florida 1.0 percent.

Ohio, often believed to be the most important state in the presidential contest because it was viewed to be a national bellwether, surprisingly recorded a lower turnout this year than during the previous Obama victory campaign. Ohio turnout was down a rather substantial 5.9 percent, or greater than 336,000 participants from 2008.

Of those seven states commonly viewed to be in the secondary target group — at least one of which Romney would have had to have carried to be successful, more if he failed to carry all of the core states — four saw increased participation, and three declined. The states producing a greater number of voters were in the Midwest (Wisconsin, up 2.4 percent; Iowa, increasing 1.9 percent) and West (fast-growing Nevada adding 4.5 percent; Colorado, up 3.1 percent).

The three eastern and Mid-Atlantic states all recorded a smaller voter participation rate. Pennsylvania, always considered a swing state and a place that attracts a great deal of campaign attention, saw its voter turnout rate fall 6.1 percent; Michigan, the only state in the Union that actually lost population in the preceding decade, dropped 5.7 percent; and New Hampshire returned almost the same number of voters, coming in just 5,091 ballots under their 2008 total.

It appears the biggest voter drop-off occurred in some of the nation’s largest states, those that are most Democratic and among the president’s strongest places. His home state of Illinois, for example, saw more than 431,000, or 7.8 percent, fewer people vote this year than when compared to their favorite son’s first election in 2008. New York had the largest drop-off, a stunning 19.8 percent below its participation level of four years ago. California, the nation’s largest state, was off 12.5 percent. But, lower turnout rates were not confined only to the large Democratic states. Texas, the biggest and most loyal Republican entity, also saw a reduction in turnout. Over 112,000 fewer voters went to the polls in 2012 when compared to 2008.

More analysis will be completed when additional data is available, but these statewide turnout numbers may have produced more questions about the nation’s voting patterns than answers.

Virginia Numbers Tell the Tale

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The Virginia State Board of Elections just released their 2012 results segmented by congressional district, the first state to do so, and the data give us further insight as to why Pres. Barack Obama again carried the Old Dominion. The state was long known to be one of the determining voting entities of the campaign, therefore the refined and newly released information carries national significance.

Statewide, voter turnout was reported to be 75.9 percent of the registered voters recorded as “active” by the Virginia state elections officials. The highest turnout district was that of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA-7), as 82.8 percent of the central Virginia active registered voters participated. The lowest turnout rate was found in Rep. Gerry Connolly’s (D) northern Virginia 11th District where only 68.9 percent of active registered voters went to the polls.

At the congressional level, eight of the 11 districts were drawn to favor Republicans. The map performed as designed, because the eight GOP congressional incumbents all won re-election. In the presidential race, however, Obama obviously outperformed his Democratic congressional running mates, but only carried one more district than they. Obama won Districts 2 (Rep. Scott Rigell-R), 3 (Rep. Bobby Scott-D), 8 (Rep. Jim Moran-D), and 11 (Rep. Connolly). Therefore, despite GOP nominee Mitt Romney carrying seven of 11 congressional districts, he still lost the state. Obama’s official margin over Romney was 149,279 votes, meaning at least this many people are ballot switchers or did not vote in their individual congressional race.

Perhaps the most extraordinary finding is how Romney’s performance compared to the Republican congressional candidates. In all but one CD, the Republican congressional candidate recorded more votes than Romney. The lone exception was the western-most 9th District, commonly called “The Fighting Ninth” or the “coal district.” Here, Romney scored 11,456 votes more than Rep. Morgan Griffith (R), even though the latter was winning a convincing 61.3 percent re-election victory.

But it is the Northern Virginia seats where the most eye-opening results occurred. Despite not running competitive campaigns against Reps. Moran and Connolly, Republican candidates J. Patrick Murray and Chris Perkins in Districts 8 and 11, respectively, actually recorded more votes than did Romney. Murray secured 4,933 more votes than the Republican presidential nominee; Perkins garnered 9,441 tallies greater than Romney’s total. But none can come close to the results found in the new 10th District, where veteran Rep. Frank Wolf (R) out-polled Romney by 38,362 votes.

To put this in perspective, even though Murray received only 30.6 percent support against Moran and Perkins 35.5 percent in opposing Connolly, more people voted for them in these two districts than for Romney.

The other determining region was the Tidewater area, where the former Massachusetts governor failed to carry Rep. Rigell’s District 2 (he scored 48.6 percent there) and ran 12,466 votes behind the congressman, who won his first re-election with 53.7 percent. The other marginal Republican Tidewater CD, Rep. Randy Forbes’ (R) 4th District, showed an even greater difference between Romney and the congressional candidate. Here, Forbes ran 18,287 votes ahead of the man at the top of his party’s ticket. Romney eked out a 50.1 percent win over Obama, while Forbes racked up 56.9 percent in clinching his sixth re-election.

Comparing the presidential and congressional races to the Senate campaign between eventual winner Tim Kaine (D), the state’s former governor, and ex-Sen. George Allen (R), it was the Democratic candidate who carried the majority of the congressional seats — six to the Republican’s five. In addition to the seats that went for Obama (Districts 2, 3, 8 and 11), Kaine also carried Republican districts 4 and 10.

In more Virginia news, Quinnipiac University (Nov. 8-12; 1,469 registered Virginia voters) just released the first public survey of next year’s gubernatorial contest. Not surprisingly, the results determined that popular Sen. Mark Warner (D) would easily defeat both known Republican aspirants, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Warner’s margins are 53-33 percent over Bolling and a similar 56-33 percent when paired with Cuccinelli. There has been speculation that Warner might enter the state’s 2013 governor’s race, thus giving him a better platform from which to launch a presidential campaign in 2016.

Former Democratic National Committee chairman and 2009 gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe was likewise tested against the two Republicans. These match-ups suggest a much closer statewide race. Against Bolling, McAuliffe jumps out to a slight 38-36 percent lead; the margin becomes 41-37 percent when Cuccinelli is inserted as the hypothetical Republican nominee.

Obama and Senate Ds; House Rs

The question as to which of the two party’s polling methodology and turnout model projection was correct was answered in the this morning’s early hours, as the Democratic projections proved to be spot on.

As they predicted, Pres. Barack Obama was re-elected with what could be as many as 332 Electoral Votes, should he carry still-outstanding Florida. The absentee ballots will determine the winner at a later date, but the outcome from what was formerly challenger Mitt Romney’s most important state is now irrelevant in determining the victor.

The race was as close as forecast, with the president taking the popular vote, preliminarily, by some 2.5 million ballots, an approximate margin of 51.1 percent. The individual core states of Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and Ohio were just as close as the national popular vote but, in the end, the president captured at least two of the four places, and possibly three, that Romney was virtually forced to win.

As has been the case since 2006, inclusive, the Senate races ended in a run. And, as in two of the three immediately previous elections, it was the Democrats who scored big. Despite having to defend 23 of 33 Senate seats, the Democrats will fare no worse than breaking even and quite possibly will see a net gain of two seats. Both Montana and North Dakota remain outstanding at this writing, going to political overtime. In the Big Sky Country, it will be the final counting plus the absentee ballots in both states that will determine the winner. But, Democratic Sen. Jon Tester (MT) and former Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp (ND) lead in both races. If the two hold their leads, the final Senate margin will increase to 55D-45R.

At the beginning of the election cycle, considering Republicans needed to win only 14 of 33 Senate races to capture the majority, such an outcome was only remotely considered. Again, the polling proved to be spot on, and did correctly forecast the Democratic surge at the end for all of the competitive races. Only in Arizona (senator-elect Jeff Flake) and Nevada (Sen. Dean Heller) did the Republican candidates prevail.

In the House, Republicans held their majority but Democrats cut into their advantage. With 12 races remaining uncalled, the Republicans have 232 seats compared to the Democrats’ 191. Since the LA-3 contest ended in two Republican candidates headed to a post-election run-off (Dec. 1 – Reps. Charles Boustany and Jeff Landry), the minimum GOP number for the ensuing Congress will be 233. Of the remaining 11 races, they have the pre-absentee ballot counting edge in only two, so if trends hold constant in all results, the party division will be 235R-200D, or a gain of seven seats for the Democrats.

Most of the outstanding elections are in Arizona and California, and they are razor-thin. The margins are as follows:

  • AZ-1: The result here could mark the return of former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D). She has a 6,716 vote margin over former state Sen. Jonathan Paton (R). About 1% of the total vote remains to be counted before absentee ballot tabulation.
  • AZ-2: In a real surprise, Republican challenger Martha McSally has a very slight 386 vote lead over just-elected Rep. Ron Barber (D) in the Tucson region seat. This is the former district of ex-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D). Barber, her former staff member, won a similar district in a June special election. Absentee ballots will be the determining factor here.
  • AZ-9: The absentees will help decide this marginal race, too, as former state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D) has a small 2,101 vote edge over Paradise Valley Mayor Vernon Parker (R). This race never veered from a small Sinema lead all night.
  • CA-7: Challenger Ami Bera (D) leads Rep. Dan Lungren (R) by just 184 votes, but thousands of absentee ballots remain.
  • CA-26: Democrat Julia Brownley has a 7,099 vote lead over state Sen. Tony Strickland (R), but again the thousands of absentee ballots will make the final call.
  • CA-36: Challenger Raul Ruiz (D) leads Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R) by 3,451 votes, but only 57.4% of total universe of ballots has been counted. There could be as many as 50,000 ballots left here and in CA-7.
  • CA-52: Absentees will also determine the winner in this San Diego district, as challenger Scott Peters (D) leads Rep. Brian Bilbray (R) by just 685 votes.
  • FL-18: Freshman Rep. Allen West (R) finds himself trailing newcomer Patrick Murphy by 2,456 votes, and absentees will also determine the final victor here, too.
  • LA-3: As mentioned above, the 3rd District race will move to a Dec. 1 run-off election between two Republican incumbents. Rep. Charles Boustany has a 45-30% lead over Rep. Jeff Landry heading to a secondary election that is sure to produce a Republican winner.
  • MI-1: Freshman Rep. Dan Benishek (R) is holding a small 2,297 vote advantage over former state Rep. Gary McDowell (D). The absentee ballots could still change the outcome here, as well.
  • NC-7: Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre is holding a mere 378 vote lead over state Sen. David Rouzer (R), with thousands of absentee ballots remaining.

Analysis of all these and other results and trends coming later today.