Category Archives: Senate

NC: First Post-Sexting Poll

By Jim Ellis

North Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Cal Cunningham’s recent involvement in a sexting scandal has seen polling numbers drop.

Oct. 7, 2020 — On Friday, it came to light, after the announcement that North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis had been diagnosed with COVID-19, that Democratic nominee Cal Cunningham who has been leading for most of the race is involved in a sexting affair with a married woman. The story was carried heavily in media reports on Friday.

Almost immediately, Public Policy Polling went into the field to assess the damage, and while they find Cunningham still holding the advantage it is half the size of the double-digit margin he enjoyed in the previous two surveys.

The North Carolina Senate race has been heavily studied. Just since Sept. 15, we have seen no less than 13 polls released of this Senate contest with Cunningham leading in all.

The new Public Policy Polling survey (Oct. 4-5; 911 North Carolina voters via interactive voice response system) sees Cunningham holding a 48-42 percent lead over Sen. Tillis. Though the margin is six points, the spread is down significantly from the 13- and 12-point advantages he recorded in the two most recent polls from Hart Research Associates (Sept. 24-27; 400 likely North Carolina voters via live interview) and ALG Research (Sept. 22-28; 822 voters, online), respectively.

The PPP data reveals that Cunningham is taking a hit over the budding scandal. When asked whether “the information about Cal Cunningham having a relationship with a woman who is not his wife make you more or less likely to vote for him, or does it not make a difference,” 37 percent answered they are less likely to support him versus three percent who said they were more inclined. A total of 58 percent said the breaking story would make no difference in how they decide to vote.

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The Sleeper Race?

By Jim Ellis

Republican candidate Mark Ronchetti (left) and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe/Santa Fe)

Oct. 5, 2020 — It seems every election cycle features a surprise Senate contest. This year, that campaign may reside in New Mexico.

For months, it’s been a foregone conclusion that Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe/Santa Fe) would succeed retiring Sen. Tom Udall (D). Recent polling, however, suggests that Republican challenger Mark Ronchetti may have been discounted a bit too early.

The latest polling trends clearly show a narrowing margin. A new Public Opinion Strategies survey for the Ronchetti campaign (Sept. 26-28; 500 registered New Mexico voters; live interview) finds the upstart Republican climbing to within six percentage points of Rep. Lujan, 46-40 percent.

In June, Public Policy Polling (June 12-13; 740 New Mexico voters) projected Lujan holding a predictable 14-point lead, 48-34 percent. At the beginning of September, the Research & Polling firm tested the state (Aug. 26-Sept. 2; 1,123 likely New Mexico voters, live interview) and saw Lujan’s edge slipping a bit to 49-40 percent. In the middle of last month, POS tested the race two weeks before their aforementioned survey and found an almost identical result when compared to their current offering. The mid-September ballot test yielded a 45-39 percent split.

Mark Ronchetti is a former chief meteorologist for the Albuquerque CBS television affiliate in a media market that covers about two-thirds of the state, since it stretches northward to Santa Fe and beyond. Therefore, Ronchetti has significant name identification, though not in relation to politics.

Rep. Lujan won the state’s northern congressional district in 2008, succeeding Udall when he was first elected to the Senate. Prior to his congressional service, the six-term incumbent was a four-year member of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission.

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Kansas Breaking

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 2, 2020 — One of the most interesting Senate primary races occurred in the Sunflower State of Kansas where Sen. Pat Roberts’ (R) retirement left a contentious Republican primary in his wake, one that saw even Democrats becoming involved. Now, it appears the general election may be beginning to break.

In 2018, then-Secretary of State Kris Kobach upset Gov. Jeff Colyer in the Republican gubernatorial primary by just over 300 votes statewide to snatch the party nomination. He would then go on to lose to Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly (D-Topeka) in a race that many Republicans believe Kobach simply gave away due to his poor campaign.

Undaunted by this loss and what was regarded as his failed chairmanship of the Trump Administration’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, Kobach entered the 2020 Senate campaign. Republican leaders even including the National Republican Senatorial Committee hierarchy, worried that Kobach would again lose the general election, got behind west Kansas US Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend). He would eventually prevail in the Aug. 4 primary even though polling showed a close race throughout, usually with Kobach ahead. The final tally was 40-26 percent in Rep. Marshall’s favor.

The strangest part of the primary, however, was Democratic aligned organizations coming into the state in an attempt to actually help Kobach win the Republican nomination. They did this by attacking him as being too conservative, and much too closely aligned with President Trump, negative ads they knew would actually be viewed favorably by the most loyal of Kansas Republican primary voters.

Helping Kobach win the GOP nomination, these Democratic leaders believed, would give their candidate, party switching state Sen. Barbara Bollier (D-Mission Hills), the upper hand in the general election with the chance of capturing what should be a safe Republican Senate seat.

After the primary, the early polling was showing a relatively even race between Rep. Marshall and Sen. Bollier. Traversing a period of having no released polls since immediately after the early August primary, we now see several released surveys conducted within the same general sampling period. Most of these current studies find Marshall beginning to put some distance between he and Bollier.

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Sen. Collins of Maine Hanging On

By Jim Ellis

Maine Sen. Susan Collins (R)

Sept. 25, 2020 — Our original quick analysis may be incorrect. Soon after the announcement that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had passed away, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) made a statement indicating that she would not support until after the election a motion to proceed that would allow the Senate to vote on confirming a Supreme Court replacement.

Responding, we believed that Sen. Collins’ decision had sealed her own doom in regard to winning her re-election campaign against state House Speaker Sara Gideon (D). We reasoned that at least a part of Maine’s conservative bloc would likely turn away from Sen. Collins, one who they do not particularly trust anyway, yet a group she needs to close the polling deficit she faces against Gideon. This was also predicated upon the belief that her move would gain little from the center-left or mostly left voter who may have supported Sen. Collins in previous elections.

A just-released Maine political survey, however, suggests that such a conclusion may not be so clear. Moore Information, polling for the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the first Maine Senate data released into the public realm after Justice Ginsburg’s death (Sept. 20-22; 500 likely Maine voters, live interview), finds Sen. Collins actually gaining support to pull into a 42-42 percent tie with Gideon. This is the first survey showing Sen. Collins even or ahead since another Moore Information poll conducted in late June posted her to an eight-point lead.

The Maine seat is critical to determining the next Senate majority. Routinely, we believe it is part of a four-state firewall that Republicans must maintain to uphold their relatively slim 53-47 chamber majority. The other three being converting Alabama, and retaining Iowa and Montana. Losing any one of these four states would likely turn the focus to North Carolina where Sen. Thom Tillis (R) would be forced to score a come-from-behind win, which could then pave the way for Republicans keeping majority control with a smaller edge.

Polling has been clear for weeks that Sen. Collins is trailing. Since 2020 began, now 18 polls have been conducted of this Senate race, and Gideon has led in all but the two Moore Information surveys. Overall, the incumbent has been trailing by an average slightly over four percentage points with a median of 4.5 percent, numbers barely within the polling margin of error range.

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Senate: A Polling Comparison

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 24, 2020 — Today, we look at the competitive Senate races and segment the group around polling consistency. Several races routinely report point spreads between the two major party candidates that are wildly inconsistent, while others vary over a small difference often within the same polling period.

The two most extreme surveys during the month are listed for each state with the most extreme first and the closest second. You will notice that the British firm, Redfield & Wilton Strategies, is often listed as the most extreme.

We begin, alphabetically by state, with the inconsistent group. Only the two Georgia races are in the September consistent segment.


INCONSISTENT


Arizona
Number of September polls: 14
Polling range: 16 points

Redfield & Wilton Strategies
(Sept. 12-16; 855 likely Arizona voters; combination online and live interview)
• Mark Kelly (D) – 52%
• Sen. Martha McSally (R) – 35%

ABC News/Washington Post
(Sept. 15-20; 579 AZ likely voters; live interview)
• Mark Kelly (D) – 49%
• Sen. Martha McSally (R) – 48%


Iowa
Number of September polls: 2
Polling range: 8 points

Fabrizio Ward/Hart Research (for AARP)
(Aug. 30-Sept. 5; 800 likely Iowa voters; live interview)
• Sen. Joni Ernst (R) – 50%
• Theresa Greenfield (D) – 45%

Selzer & Company
(Sept. 14-17; 658 likely Iowa voters; live interview)
• Sen. Joni Ernst (R) – 45%
• Theresa Greenfield (D) – 42%


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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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SCOTUS: The Effect of Replacing Late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg On The 35 Senate Races

By Jim Ellis

Late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Sept. 22, 2020 — A secondary question surrounding the replacement process for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is how will the confirmation fight over the next judicial nominee resonate in the 35 Senate races?

In the 18 campaigns that appear non-competitive (9D; 8R) – for example, in Illinois (Sen. Dick Durbin-D), Rhode Island (Sen. Jack Reed-D), Arkansas (Sen. Tom Cotton-R), and Idaho (Sen. Jim Risch-R) to name a representative quartet – the Supreme Court battle will have little influence over the Senate outcome since those situations are virtually decided.

If the individual campaigns play the issue correctly, however, the Supreme Court vacancy development could be a boon to most competitive Republican incumbents and candidates in traditionally conservative states that are moving closer to the political center.

Democratic challengers in the more conservative states could have trouble because the issue matrix likely to be discussed through the nomination and confirmation process should activate the more conservative voting base. This is likely the case in the key competitive southern domains (AL, GA, NC), and in the Midwest and Rocky Mountain states, particularly in Iowa, the Kansas open seat, and for the Montana duel, in addition to the far west campaign in Alaska.

Perhaps the senator in the worst confirmation question situation, and one who can ill afford to be embroiled in such a predicament, is Maine Sen. Susan Collins (R). Already trailing in polling to state House Speaker Sara Gideon, Sen. Collins’ immediate call to postpone the process, and what will likely lead to a vote against the motion to proceed, will likely cost her conservative votes that she badly needs.

Her position to postpone has likely angered many who comprise the conservative base and gained her nothing with the Independents and soft Democrats that she desperately needs to close the gap between she and Gideon.

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