Category Archives: Senate

A Wisconsin Senate Struggle:
Sen. Ron Johnson Trailing … Again

By Jim Ellis

Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson (R)

April 5, 2021 — Another tough statewide campaign appears to be brewing in the Badger State.
Thomas Nelson is the Outagamie County, Wisconsin, executive (Appleton area) and a former Wisconsin state assembly majority leader who is assessing his chances of challenging Sen. Ron Johnson (R) next year. For his part, Sen. Johnson has not indicated whether he will seek a third term. He has hinted both toward running again and keeping the pledge he made during his first campaign in 2010 to serve only two terms.

Nelson just released the results of an internal Change Research poll that posts him to a four-point 48-44 percent lead over Sen. Johnson. Looking back to the senator’s last election campaign (2016), trailing in a survey is nothing new. It was the repetitive data continually pegging him as trailing that led to the National Republican Senatorial Committee abandoning him as a lost cause until the late polls showed him rebounding with at least a chance to win.

In the end, Johnson defeated former Sen. Russ Feingold (D), 50-47 percent, in one of the most surprising results of campaign year 2016.

Wisconsin is likely the least accurately polled state during the past few elections. In the aforementioned Johnson-Feingold race, a total of 74 surveys were publicly released, and 70 of them showed Sen. Johnson trailing. In the same election year, 33 research studies were placed in the public domain for the presidential race and only the Trafalgar Group, just as the campaign was closing, correctly projected Donald Trump with an edge.

In 2020, a total of 70 presidential polls were released and 66 gave Joe Biden the lead. He did carry the state, but only by 20,682 votes translating into a 0.7 percent margin. The final 20 polls, all conducted after Oct. 1, found President Biden carrying a 7.0 percent average advantage, well beyond the polling margin of error in relation to the final result.

Therefore, with a consistent pattern of underestimating Republican strength, seeing Sen. Johnson trailing by only four points in the early stages of the 2022 campaign suggests his actual standing is likely much better.

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New Pollster Ratings

By Jim Ellis

March 30, 2021 — The FiveThirtyEight statistical organization released their latest political pollsters’ accuracy ranking chart toward the end of last week — a study that included 592 survey research firms.

Grades from A+ to C/D were assigned to the firms based upon four criteria:

  1. Their 2020 election cycle precision
  2. The predictive category that suggests how successful the firm will be in the future
  3. The number of polls analyzed in this most recent cyccle, and
  4. hat the FiveThirtyEight team terms as the company’s “mean-reverted bias” factor.

Four polling entities earned the top A+ rating. They are:

  • the Iowa-based Selzer & Company
  • ABC News/Washington Post
  • Siena College/New York Times
  • IDB/TIPP

Another six received A ratings:

  • Survey USA
  • Landmark Communications
  • Research & Polling
  • AtlasIntel
  • Monmouth University
  • Marist College
  • Fox News

Seven more posted A- rankings:

  • The Trafalgar Group
  • Public Opinion Strategies
  • CBS News/New York Times
  • Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy
  • Public Policy Polling
  • Emerson College
  • Quinnipiac University

On the other end of the spectrum, 18 firms were at the bottom of the list but a dozen from this group conducted less than 10 surveys. Of those featuring more than 10 polls, the lowest ranked of the group were Nielsen Brothers Polling, the Humphrey Institute, FM3 Research, Opinion Research Associates, McLaughlin & Associates, and Brown University.

Selzer & Company has long been recognized as one of the country’s better pollsters based upon its strong record predicting the Iowa Caucus presidential results and other races most often from the Hawkeye State.

In 2020, 12 of 19 published polls projected Iowa Democrat Theresa Greenfield as leading Sen. Joni Ernst (R). Approaching Election Day, only two pollsters posted the incumbent ahead four or more percentage points: Selzer & Company and Insider Advantage. Sen. Ernst’s final victory margin was 6.6 percentage points. The IA firm came closest to the end result (Ernst, plus-6; actual, 6.6 percent). Surveying for the Des Moines Register newspaper, Selzer & Company again landed within the accuracy realm (Ernst plus-4).

The ratings also included the polling firms’ partisan bias factor. The bias swing in favor of one party or the other ranged from 4.7 points toward the Democrats (Survey Monkey) to a 3.1 sway for Republicans (MRG Research). The overwhelming majority of pollsters with the highest bias rating favored the Democrats. Of the 28 firms that registered a 2.0 or greater partisan bias factor, 26 favored Democratic candidates.

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Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt (R)

March 10, 2021 — Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt (R) announced via video yesterday that he is not seeking a third term next year. He will conclude an era of elected public service that spanned 14 years in the House in addition to completing a dozen years in the Senate. Prior to his federal career, he served as Missouri’s secretary of state, was the Greene County clerk, ran for governor, and saw his son elected governor.

The Blunt exit brings the number of Republican open Senate seats to five and could soon go to seven if Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) follow suit. Sen. Grassley will turn 89 years of age before the next election, and Sen. Johnson originally made a two-term promise when he first ran in 2010. The other announced GOP retirees are Sens. Richard Burr (NC), Pat Toomey (PA), Rob Portman (OH), and Richard Shelby (AL).

Without Sen. Blunt in the 2022 race, we can expect a contested Republican primary. Potential candidates include Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, the son of former senator and US Attorney General John Ashcroft, and US Reps. Ann Wagner (R-Ballwin/St. Louis County), Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-St. Elizabeth/Jefferson City), Sam Graves (R-Tarkio/St. Joseph), Billy Long (R-Springfield), and Jason Smith (R-Salem/Southeast MO) among others.

Resigned Gov. Eric Greitens, who was forced from office due to a sex scandal, was beginning to talk about launching a primary against Sen. Blunt, so in an open-seat situation he will be another person whose name will regularly surface.

We’re seeing almost the opposite response among Democrats. The initial public comments from two of the most well-known Missouri Dems, former Sen. Claire McCaskill and 2016 nominee Jason Kander, who held Sen. Blunt to a tight 49-46 percent win in 2016, both immediately indicated that they will not run in 2022. Thus, a previously announced Senate candidate, former state Sen. Scott Sifton, apparently becomes the early leader for the party nomination.

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Ryan Hedging on Senate Run

By Jim Ellis

Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Warren/Youngstown)

March 2, 2021 — Last month, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Warren/Youngstown) indicated that he would launch a statewide campaign for retiring Sen. Rob Portman’s (R) open seat in March. Now, he looks to be backpedaling.

In an interview with the Spectrum News Service, Rep. Ryan said, “we’ll make a decision here, I guess, in the coming weeks. I don’t think a March kickoff is going to happen.”

Such equivocation has seemingly been the congressman’s standard operating procedure over the years. Several times before he has been looking seriously at races for the US Senate, governor, and even lieutenant governor, but has always retreated to the relative safety of his House seat.

He did briefly campaign for president in 2020 but dropped out of the race when it was obvious his message was falling on deaf ears, exiting in plenty of time to meet the Ohio candidate filing deadline. Last November, Rep. Ryan went onto win a more competitive House race than he normally sees, defeating former state Rep. Christina Hagan (R), 52-45 percent.

Going back to the House race, if that’s what Rep. Ryan ultimately decides, may look different in 2022. If redistricting actually happens, considering all of the Census Bureau delays, Ohio faces the loss of another congressional seat in reapportionment, and it may well be Ryan’s.

His current 13th District stretches from the Pennsylvania border, encompasses Youngstown and the congressman’s hometown of Warren, and then captures a large part of the Akron metropolitan area. From preliminary census reports, it appears OH-13 will require an influx of more than 75,000 people once the final numbers are calculated. The Ryan district looks to rank 13th in population of the 16 Ohio congressional districts.

Perhaps a bigger problem for the 10-term incumbent, and what makes his 13th District vulnerable to collapse, is the adjacent 11th District that houses the western side of Akron in Summit County, is the least populated seat in Ohio and will need to gain as many as 100,000 individuals.

Therefore, collapsing the 13th District portion of Akron into the 11th in order to keep the city and at least most of the county together would be a sensible draw, thus leaving Rep. Ryan’s eastern district sector as a standing fragment. Since Districts 14 to the north, 6 and 7 to the south, and 16 to the west will all require more population, eliminating District 13 becomes a plausible option.

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Poll: Sununu Pulls Ahead of Hassan

By Jim Ellis

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R)

March 1, 2021 — Republican leaders have been consistently promoting the idea that by New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) challenging first-term Sen. Maggie Hassan (D) it would give the GOP its strongest chance of converting the seat. A new poll supports their assertion.

The University of New Hampshire’s pollsters released the results of their regular Granite State Poll, and though this organization was previously one of the least reliable survey research entities, their record has improved in recent elections. Before, they conducted polls over excessively long sampling periods, which led to a large error factor and was a key reason they badly missed some previous polling.

Such methodological flaws have been corrected in the past few election cycles, thus making their data a better gauge of the New Hampshire electorate. Their latest survey conducted over the Feb. 18-22 period and involving 1,676 likely general election voters from their pool of 1,868 Granite State Poll panel members was conducted online. Its results were then weighted to make their sample better resemble the New Hampshire voting universe.

The previous explanation is not to exempt the Granite State pollsters from producing some eyebrow-raising numbers, however. While its tight ballot test numbers are believable for a state’s electorate whose voting patterns have seemingly swung wildly since the turn of the century, seeing an incumbent trailing badly among Independents so early in an election cycle appears questionable.

The ballot test pairing Sen. Hassan with Gov. Sununu finds the Republican state chief executive taking a two-point lead over the incumbent, 48-46 percent. This is a believable outcome when seeing Sununu carrying a 55:19 percent favorability ratio as compared to Sen. Hassan’s 42:38 percent.

What appears bizarre is finding Sen. Hassan trailing the governor 56-18 percent among Independents. That such a widespread gap actually exists within this group seems unlikely, and even the depiction of voters identifying with a party compared with their reported voter registration appears inconsistent. While only 17 percent of the study respondents ID themselves as Independents, 42 percent say they are undeclared voters with regard to party registration.

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Perdue Changes Course in Georgia

By Jim Ellis

Former Georgia Sen. David Perdue (R)

Feb. 25, 2021 — Just when former Sen. David Perdue (R) appeared prepared to challenge new Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) in the 2022 general election, he abruptly reversed course and announced Tuesday that he will not run. Perdue had filed a 2022 campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission, but such action does not make one an official candidate.

Without Perdue in the 2022 race, the fight for the Republican nomination becomes a free-for-all. Earlier in the week former Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R), who lost her Jan. 5 Senate runoff election, as did Sen. Perdue, confirmed that she is considering running in 2022 in addition to forming a grassroots organization with the goal of increasing right-of-center voter registration in Georgia.

Former Rep. Doug Collins (R), who lost in the 2020 special Senate election, placing behind Sens. Warnock and Loeffler in the crowded jungle primary, also said that he is considering a new run for the Senate, or even a potential Republican nomination challenge to Gov. Brian Kemp.

Yesterday, Atlanta Journal Constitution political reporter Greg Bluestein listed several more Republicans who apparently have not yet ruled out a Senate bid next year. They are: Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, Attorney General Chris Carr, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, and former US Ambassador to Luxembourg Randy Evans.

In the Nov. 3 special jungle primary, Rev. Warnock captured the highest vote total, 1,617,035 of 4,914,361 ballots cast from within a field of 20 candidates. Sen. Loeffler placed second, 292,760 votes ahead of third place finisher Collins.

The fact that Loeffler finished substantially ahead of Collins will be one argument she will likely use to convince base voters that she is most able to defeat Sen. Warnock this time around. Collins, conversely, will contend that a Republican primary is very different than a special election in a regular voting schedule, thus suggesting that he is better positioned to win a primary nomination and develop a stronger base from which to oppose Sen. Warnock.

With Georgia changing politically, any Republican nominee is going to have a difficult time unseating Sen. Warnock but doing so is certainly within the realm of possibility. In the Jan. 5 runoff, while both Loeffler and Perdue were losing to their respective Democratic opponents, a third race was also on the ballot.

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Perdue Making Moves in Georgia

By Jim Ellis

Former Georgia Sen. David Perdue (R)

Feb. 19, 2021 — Defeated Georgia Sen. David Perdue (R) is taking the first steps toward making a quick political comeback. This week he filed a new 2022 US Senate campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission to explore his prospects against new Sen. Raphael Warnock (D), who will be standing for a full six-year term after winning the 2020 special election. Perdue says he will make a final decision about launching his candidacy next month.

One of the former senator’s arguments to support a new campaign is that he “won” the November general election, which, he points out, drew a record high turnout.

Using the term “won” might be a stretch because we obviously know that Georgia has a runoff system even for the general, which must be satisfied to actually win, but he did finish 88,098 votes ahead of Jon Ossoff in the first election in which 4,952,175 people cast ballots. This total, however, was only enough for 49.73 percent of the vote, a scant 0.27 percent from clinching the seat.

The Jan. 5 runoff turned out differently, as these types of elections often do when an incumbent fails to achieve majority support in the first vote. That is, the second-place finisher frequently wins.

In January, now that the final votes are tabulated and certified, Ossoff produced a 54,944-vote edge from a participation factor of 4,484,902 voters, meaning 467,273 fewer individuals took part in the runoff election. This drop-off rate of only 9.4 percent, however, is the lowest ever for this type of a secondary electoral contest. The typical participation rate falls by at least one-third.

Therefore, Perdue’s argument that he “won” the record turnout election is less credible when understanding that the runoff had a small drop-off rate, and its turnout as part of the super-charged 2020 election cycle is well beyond a standard midterm participation factor.

Additionally, while a Perdue 2022 entry might dissuade other potential Republican nomination contenders such as former Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who campaigned closely with Perdue as part of their Republican team effort, it apparently isn’t yet stopping at least one other potential rival.

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