Category Archives: Senate

Senate Candidate Gibbons Confirmed to be in Top Tier of Ohio Race

By Jim Ellis

Ohio US Senate candidate Mike Gibbons forges into a small lead.

Feb. 15, 2022 — At the end of January, a Cygnal research poll found investment banker and 2018 Ohio US Senate candidate Mike Gibbons forging into a small lead over perennial GOP primary leader Josh Mandel, the state’s former treasurer and 2012 US Senate nominee. Two new polls now confirm Gibbons’ outright lead in the battle to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman.

The previously released internal Gibbons’ campaign Cygnal January poll (Jan. 28-30; 929 likely Ohio Republican primary voters, SMS text & email) gave their candidate a 16-13 percent lead over Mandel, with author J.D. Vance showing in double-digits at 10 percent.

The new pair of statewide Buckeye State Republican US Senate primary surveys find the businessman again overtaking Mandel to claim first place. A co/efficent independent survey (Feb. 6-8; 613 likely Ohio Republican primary voters, text & automated interview responses) posts Gibbons to a 20-18 percent lead over Mandel, with state senator and Cleveland Guardians MLB club minority owner Mike Dolan, former state Republican Party chair Jane Timken, and Vance trailing with 7, 6 and 5 percent support, respectively.

The new Cyngal research firm’s internal poll for the Gibbons campaign (Feb. 8-10; 609 likely Ohio Republican primary voters, SMS text & email), however, gives their candidate a much larger margin over the rest of the field.

One possible reason for the increase in support is that another business candidate, car dealer Bernie Moreno, who had reached as high as 11 percent in a January poll, withdrew from the race in early February, reportedly at the behest of former President Donald Trump. It is conceivable that much of the Moreno support base went to Gibbons, since the two candidates were similar in several ways.

The most recent Cygnal numbers find Gibbons holding a surprisingly large 23 percent support figure, with Mandel, Vance, Timken, and Dolan trailing with 11, 9, 8 and 6 percent, respectively. The Gibbons’ media blitz, to an extent featuring Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) endorsing the investment banker’s candidacy, has clearly achieved its goal of propelling Gibbons into serious contention for the party nomination that will be decided in the open May 3 primary election.

Though the study’s analysis report doesn’t provide segmented numbers, the Cygnal pollsters claim the Gibbons lead is widespread within the key Republican voter groups. They report Gibbons leads by double digits among “self-identified Trump Republicans as well as Traditional Republicans.”

Gibbons also maintains similar leads with “self-identified Extremely Conservative, Very Conservative, and Somewhat Conservative voters, and over the nearest competitor among both men and women.” He also “holds strong advantages among Evangelical Protestants, Mainline Protestants, and Catholic voters.”

Gibbons’ effort is almost exclusively self-financed, to the tune of $11.4 million, all as a loan to the campaign. He has spent $5.8 million and had a cash-on-hand reserve of $6.4 million at the end of 2021. Therefore, even if his fundraising operation does not raise major money, Gibbons has enough to compete for the nomination.

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Cortez Masto Rebounds in New Poll

By Jim Ellis

Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D)

Feb. 4, 2022 — Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D), who trailed in the most recent published statewide poll (Trafalgar Group; Nov. 24-29; 1,034 likely Nevada general election voters; Adam Laxalt (R) 44 percent, Cortez Masto (D) 41 percent) has rebounded to regain the lead according to a new OH Predictive Insights survey, but warning signs persist for the first-term incumbent.

The OHPI poll commissioned for the Nevada Independent news site (Jan. 19-26; 755 likely Nevada registered voters, online) finds Sen. Cortez Masto topping former state Attorney General Laxalt (R) in a general election ballot test by a 44-35 percent margin. While the spread is relatively strong in her favor, posting a 44 percent support number is low for any incumbent.

For example, the same poll tested Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, and found his preference figure reaching 52 percent if Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo were his Republican opponent, and 54 percent if former US Sen. Dean Heller were to become the Republican gubernatorial nominee. Because OHPI forced preference answers, meaning no recorded undecided responses for the governor’s ballot test, the Sisolak support numbers are high. It is unlikely, however, that a traditional preference question would find him dropping to the senator’s current support level.

The OHPI pollster isolated Sen. Cortez Masto’s most significant problem as her being tied to President Biden’s low approval ratings. According to this study, the president only posts a 41:53 percent favorable to unfavorable job approval index, and 33 percent, which is the poll’s top issue response, said that the economy and jobs are most important to them. Isolating Biden’s score on his handling of the economy, the president’s disapproval rose to 55 percent, darkening the political climate for the senator even further.

Laxalt’s low support number (35 percent) is likely due to him recording only a 76 percent preference factor among Republicans. This is likely due to the fact that challenger Sam Brown, a businessman and disabled Afghan War veteran, is becoming a significant contender for the Republican nomination.

Though the GOP sample segment is low in the OHPI survey – only 230 respondents and well below the 300 that becomes statistically significant in a state the size of Nevada – we still see only 37 percent of the Republican base supporting Laxalt while 14 percent names Brown as their preferred candidate. This means that 49 percent of those Republicans polled say they are undecided about whom to support in the GOP Senate primary. Despite having a short sample, the results suggest that Laxalt still has work to do in securing the nomination.

Another changing element that could affect this race, but in a heretofore unknown way, are the party registration changes occurring throughout 2021. Comparing the partisan breakdown in the state from January of 2021 through December of last year, both the Democrats and Republicans lost patrons. Democratic registration dropped 2.9 percent, while Republicans were down 2.5 percent. This meant that those registering Non-Partisan and “Other” were up substantially.

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A Curiously Conflicting Georgia Poll

By Jim Ellis

“The negative driver for this [Georgia poll] appears to be President Biden.”

Feb. 1, 2022 — The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) released one of their regular Georgia statewide polls that the School of Public and International Affairs from the University of Georgia administers (Jan. 13-24; 872 registered Georgia voters, live interview) and the results reflect an electorate with some conflicting views.

While President Biden’s job approval ratio has taken a steep dive since the news entity’s May 2021 survey was published, and the right track/wrong track question is heavily lopsided toward the negative, the current statewide office holders and even the state legislature land in the positive approval realm. Yet, in the accompanying ballot test numbers, the tested Democratic officials are trailing despite brandishing the relatively positive approval ratios.

President Biden now records a combined 34:61 percent favorable to unfavorable index (13 percent strongly approve; 21 percent somewhat approve; 11 percent somewhat disapprove; 50 percent strongly disapprove), which is a huge net reduction of 32 percentage points from his combined 51:46 percent score in May (28 percent strongly approve; 23 percent somewhat approve; 9 percent somewhat disapprove; 37 percent strongly disapprove).

In the new January poll, the respondents believe, in a very poor 17:71 percent ratio, that the country is on the wrong track. They also feel Georgia is headed in the wrong direction, but with less intensity, 34:48 percent negative. The May AJC poll, with a shorter questionnaire, did not ask similar track questions.

The sense of the nation figures in the January study, however, also seem inconsistent with how these same respondents rate their elected federal officials. Sens. Raphael Warnock (D) and Jon Ossoff (D) record 44:35 percent and 43:35 percent positive ratios, respectively. This tells us that the sampling universe members don’t hold their senators particularly responsible for the country being on the perceived wrong track.

In another inconsistency, the senator who is on the 2022 ballot, Rev. Warnock, actually trails his prospective general election opponent, former Georgia and NFL football star Herschel Walker (R), despite the positive job approval sentiment. In this AJC poll, Walker holds a 47-44 percent lead. This latter finding is also consistent with a recent Quinnipiac University study (Jan. 19-24; 1,702 registered Georgia voters, live interview) that gave the challenger an edge, but with a smaller 49-48 percent split.

The governor’s numbers show a similar inconsistency. In Gov. Brian Kemp’s (R) case, while the state is viewed as headed in the wrong direction, the chief executive does not appear to be shouldering an excessive amount of blame. His job approval lies in the positive realm at 49:43 percent favorable to unfavorable. Paired with his likely general election opponent, 2018 gubernatorial nominee and former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D), Kemp leads 48-41 percent.

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Another Close Arizona Race Beckons

By Jim Ellis

Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly (D)

Jan. 31, 2022 — The state of Arizona has become a volatile political domain, and a new poll suggests we will see another razor-thin US Senate race evolve later this year.

Over the course of history, the Arizona voting universe boasts a pattern of electing similar numbers of candidates from both parties. Admitted to the Union in 1912 as the 48th state, Arizonans have elected just 14 individuals to their two Senate seats, seven of whom have been Democrats with an equal number of Republicans. Since 2010, however, the electorate has strayed from its conservative political roots and moved toward the ideological center.

With this backdrop, the Data for Progress research organization just released their major statewide survey of the Grand Canyon State electorate (Jan. 21-24; 1,469 likely Arizona general election voters, online & text). The DfP finds Sen. Mark Kelly (D) already falling into a tight battle with Attorney General Mark Brnovich, should the latter man win the GOP nomination.

In the campaign from two years ago, you will remember that Sen. Kelly won a special election in 2020 and now serves the remaining two years of the late Sen. John McCain’s (R) final term. In this election year, he stands for a full six-year term.

The ballot test found Kelly holding a slight 49-47 percent edge over AG Brnovich, but with the senator’s personal approval rating lapsing into the negative realm, 46:49 percent favorable to unfavorable. He still rates higher, however, than President Biden (45:54 percent), fellow Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (42:52 percent), and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey (39:57 percent).

Brnovich also records a negative personal approval rating at 26:32 percent, while venture capitalist Blake Masters, another top Republican in the US Senate field, posts a 16:17 percent ratio, with 68 percent replying that they “haven’t heard enough (about him) to say.”

In a ballot test against Gov. Ducey, who is not a Senate candidate, Sen. Kelly’s advantage is 50-47 percent. Masters was not included in the head-to-head pairing questions with Sen. Kelly.

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Hassan Improves; NH Voters Sour

By Jim Ellis

New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan (D)

Jan. 24, 2022 — The New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm’s College in Manchester, NH just completed one of their regular statewide political surveys, and while Sen. Maggie Hassan’s (D) standing has improved since their last poll, the sample participants’ underlying attitude numbers are among the most negative in the country.

In what might be the quintessential political swing state since the turn of the century, these early results spell bad news for Democrats less than 11 months from the midterm elections. In a state that Joe Biden carried with a seven-point margin in 2020, the congressional generic number now favors Republicans in a 46-40 percent clip.

St. Anselm’s poll conducted over the Jan. 11-12 period surveyed online 1,215 registered Granite State voters. Led by a Right Track-Wrong Track (direction US is headed) response ratio of a hideous 16:74 percent, only Gov. Chris Sununu (R) finds himself in a favorable realm (53:44 percent), but even his positive index has dropped a net 36 points from his rating a year ago when compared with the Institute’s February 2021 survey.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s (D) job approval of 48:48 percent is the next best of the office holders tested. President Biden records a 41:58 percent positive to negative ratio. Former President Donald Trump, however, is not in much better shape with a personal approval score of 43:55 percent.

Though Sen. Hassan’s job approval has dropped to 45:51 percent, her standing against potential Republican opponents has improved. This is the first published statewide poll conducted since Gov. Sununu announced that he would not challenge her. Therefore, the GOP is left with potential 2022 candidates of much lesser standing. In earlier polling paired against Gov. Sununu, Hassan consistently trailed.

Retired army general and 2020 US Senate candidate Don Bolduc fares best among the tested Republicans, but still trailing Sen. Hassan, 43-36 percent. She tops recent Senate campaign entries Chuck Morse, the Granite State Senate president, 41-27 percent, and former Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith, 42-24 percent. On the other hand, the Senator not exceeding 43 percent against candidates largely unfamiliar to the respondent universe – 33 percent have not heard of Bolduc, 47 percent couldn’t identify Morse, and Smith was unknown to 59 percent — still must be considered weak.

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GOP Battle Brewing in
North Carolina Senate

Former Gov. Pat McCrory (R-NC) – on thin ice in Senate bid? / Photo by Hal Goodtree, Flickr

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 17, 2022 — The North Carolina Senate candidates have dealt with more uncertainty than any other set of statewide political contenders in this election cycle. Some of the questions have now been answered, but others remain.

Due to the continuing congressional and state legislative redistricting legal battles that have hampered the state for virtually the entire preceding decade, even the candidate filing date and the primary schedule itself were in doubt until the courts finally set a political calendar.

In order to be more relevant for the 2020 presidential election, the legislature moved the state’s traditional May primary to early March to better influence the presidential nomination selection. By not taking action to move the primary back to May, it appeared that voters would choose their ’22 nominees on March 8.

In December, the state Supreme Court, after an early flurry of lower court redistricting action, took it upon themselves to transfer the state primary to May 17. They merely suspended the Dec. 17 candidate filing deadline, but did not issue a new date. Earlier this week, as part of its ruling upholding the GOP legislature’s congressional and legislative maps, the special three-judge panel assigned to hear the redistricting challenges set the filing deadline for March 4.

With these basic questions now answered, the candidates finally have a clear electoral timeline in which to work. With the Democrats earlier coming together on a consensus candidate, fireworks are beginning on the Republican side. In mid-December, state Sen. Jeff Jackson (D-Charlotte), thought to be a major US Senate contender, dropped his statewide bid. This makes former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley an overwhelming favorite for the Democratic nomination.

In the past few days, a pair of Tar Heel State Republican primary Senate polls were released almost simultaneously, with both finding former Gov. Pat McCrory holding an edge over US Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance). The ex-state chief executive’s advantage isn’t what one would expect for a well known party leader before his own partisan electorate, however. The McCrory campaign released their Strategic Partners Solutions survey (Jan. 5; 800 likely North Carolina Republican primary voters) that gives their man a 30-21-8 percent lead over Rep. Budd and former US Rep. Mark Walker.

The Civitas Institute’s latest Cygnal statewide poll (Jan. 7-9; 600 likely North Carolina Republican primary voters) also found McCrory holding an initial lead, but only through a 24-19 percent spread. Pushing for a decision from the 48 percent who said they were undecided and adding those preferences to the total actually finds Rep. Budd pulling into a small lead, 34-33 percent, when accounting for those who have “definitely” and “probably” made up their minds.

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Texas 2022 Candidate Filing Closes

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 17, 2021 — Texas became the first state to see candidate filing close for the 2022 elections, so the campaign season has officially been launched.

In the Lone Star State, candidates file with their respective state party organizations, or county parties if their race is fully contained within one entity, and not the Secretary of State. Therefore, the filings might not yet be fully recorded and approved. The statewide primary is scheduled for March 1. If no candidate for whatever office does not receive majority support in the first election, a runoff between the top two finishers will occur on May 24.

What we know so far is that Gov. Greg Abbott (R) will face a significant Republican primary challenge from former Florida congressman and ex-Texas Republican Party chairman Allen West and former Dallas state Sen. Don Huffines. The latter man, who was defeated for re-election in 2018, has the ability to self-fund a statewide primary campaign. Former congressman and 2020 presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke will be the Democratic nominee as he faces only minor opposition in the party primary.

Regardless of the level of competition, Gov. Abbott, though his approval ratings are at a low ebb in his seven-year career as the state’s chief executive, is a heavy favorite in both the Republican primary and the 2022 general election.

The main constitutional office of interest is the attorney general’s race. Here, embattled incumbent Ken Paxton (R), who has for years been under a federal SEC indictment that has yet to move forward, and who has been publicly accused of having an ongoing extra-marital affair, faces three strong candidates for re-nomination: State Land Commissioner George P. Bush, US Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tyler), and state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman.

Though Paxton has personal and legal problems, his favorability ratings among Republican primary voters is still surprisingly high. Forcing the two-term attorney general into a runoff election, however, is a clear possibility.

With the state having no Senate race in 2022, the federal focus turns to the new 38-member US House delegation. Texas gained two seats in national reapportionment, thus increasing their delegation size from 36 to 38 seats. The state will wield 40 electoral votes in the next presidential election, second only to California’s reduced 54.

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