Category Archives: Senate

NC Poll: Tillis Vulnerable

By Jim Ellis

North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis (R)

May 29, 2019 — One of the key 2020 Senate races lies in North Carolina where first-term Sen. Thom Tillis (R) is seeking his second term and finds himself in a shaky political situation. A new poll suggests he has vulnerability even within the Republican primary.

A WPA Intelligence poll for the Club for Growth PAC (May 19-21; 502 likely North Carolina Republican primary voters) finds Sen. Tillis leading a hypothetical GOP primary against three-term Rep. Mark Walker (R-Greensboro) wealthy businessman Garland Tucker, and accountant Sandy Smith, 40-17-11-2 percent. Though Tillis is below 50 percent, North Carolina election law requires only a 30 percent vote total to win nomination, meaning the senator would be well over the required minimum.

At this point, Tucker and Smith are announced Republican primary opponents, with the former having the potential of becoming a competitive candidate. Several weeks ago, Rep. Walker ruled out running for the Senate, but his latest statements appear to suggest that he is more open to entering the statewide campaign.

Isolating Sen. Tillis and Rep. Walker into a head-to-head contest, which is not realistic from a probable political perspective but is helpful in a polling context, finds Sen. Tillis leading 43-34 percent. But, WPA finds it takes little in the way of persuasion to arrive at a very different result.

According to poll results, when just the following bios are read, the ballot test virtually switches:

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Weekly Political Synopsis,
Period Ending May 17, 2019

By Jim Ellis

PRESIDENT
• Gov. Steve Bullock: As has been expected for some time, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) officially announced his presidential effort this week, becoming the 23rd Democratic candidate. Bullock made the argument that he will be an effective national candidate because he’s won two elections in a conservative state and has been able to earn legislative achievements, like Medicaid expansion, in negotiating with Republican leaders.

• Mayor Bill de Blasio: Following Gov. Bullock, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio released an announcement video at the end of the week making him the 24th Democratic presidential candidate for the 2020 election cycle. His declaration centered around being the candidate for “working families,” and cited the $15 minimum wage, a free pre-K school program, a comprehensive healthcare program that especially covers mental health, and paid sick leave.

• Florida: Former Vice President Joe Biden continues to see strong polling numbers, with the latest data coming from Florida. The Tel Opinion Research organization is reporting its latest results (released May 8; 800 likely Florida Democratic primary voters) that show Biden pulling away from his Democratic opponents on an open-ended ballot test poll. An open-ended ballot test is one where the respondent is not given the candidates’ names. That approach tests for committed strength.
According to Tel Opinion, Biden leads Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), 39-16 percent, with Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) each pulling only five percent support. South Bend (IN) Mayor Pete Buttigieg follows at three percent preference. All of the candidates scored well on the favorability index scale. Biden is viewed positively with an 81:13 percent ratio, where Sen. Sanders’ score is 68:23 percent.

SENATE
• Arizona: Phoenix-based pollster OH Predictive Insights released their latest data from their May 1-2 poll (600 likely Arizona voters) where they queried the respondent universe about the impending Senate race between appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R) and retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D). Though we are more than a year before Arizona’s 2020 late August primary, the chances are strong that the aforementioned will be their respective party standard bearers.
According to the OH poll results, the early race again earns toss-up status. The sample breaks 45-44 percent in Sen. McSally’s favor, which is virtually identical with the firm’s late February poll giving the incumbent a 46-44 percent edge.

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Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi (R)

May 7, 2019 — Four-term Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi (R), 75, announced from the Gillette City Hall building Saturday that he would not seek re-election next year and will end his career as the third longest-serving senator in state history.

In addition to what will be a 24-year tenure in Washington, Enzi has served in elected office in all but four years beginning in 1975. He was elected Mayor of Gillette in 1974, then to the state House of Representatives in 1986, the state Senate in 1991, and finally to the US Senate in 1996.

Sen. Enzi becomes the fourth in-cycle senator to announce his retirement, joining Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Pat Roberts (R-KS), and Tom Udall (D-NM). Wyoming, being one of the strongest Republican states in the country and even more so in a presidential election year, is heavily favored to remain in the GOP column.

Most of the succession speculation centers around at-large Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wilson), the House Republican Conference chair and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney. Former Gov. Matt Mead (R), who just left office in January since Wyoming limits its governors to two consecutive terms, would obviously be another strong candidate if he were to run.

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Texas by the Numbers

Map of US Congressional districts in Texas


By Jim Ellis

May 2, 2019 — The Lone Star State continues to move toward competitiveness, meaning the Texas political apparatus will see new approaches from both parties in the 2020 election campaigns.

A new Emerson College poll (April 25-28; 779 likely Texas voters, 342 likely Democratic primary voters, 344 likely Republican primary voters via Interactive Voice Response system) finds President Trump tied with two of the Democratic presidential candidates and only slightly ahead of the rest of the field. And, in Democratic Party trial heats, the results project an equally close potential finish for the state’s 228 first ballot delegates.

According to the Emerson numbers, President Trump would slightly trail former Vice President Joe Biden with each man finishing in the 50 percent realm. Trump is then slightly ahead of Texas former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) but, here too, both men are in the 50 percent realm.

The president fares better against the others, but even they are within striking distance of him in what is arguably his most important state. With 38 Electoral Votes, Texas was the only big state that Republicans could count upon winning without having to campaign, but apparently those days are over.

The next closest Democrat is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. He trails by two points, 51-49 percent. The president has healthier margins against Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and South Bend (IN) Mayor Pete Buttigieg, ahead of both, 54-46 percent, and tops Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 53-47 percent. The fact that all scenarios present no undecideds tells us the pollsters prodded respondents for a definitive answer or are extrapolating some of the results.

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The Senate Approvals

By Jim Ellis

April 29, 2019 — The Morning Consult organization released the first quarter approval ratios for all 100 senators, and it appears that quite a number of the 2020 in-cycle incumbents need to improve their ratings before facing the voters next year. In fact, when looking at the ratio spread from positive to negative, seven of the 10 weakest performers will be on the next ballot.

The senator with the highest positive score, 62 percent, is presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. The Vermont electorate is the most pleased with their senators. Not only did Sen. Sanders score a 62 percent favorable job approval rating, but his veteran seat mate, seven-term incumbent Patrick Leahy (D), is right behind him with a 59 percent positive total.

But, the swing between the individual positive and negative scores may be the better indicator of an office holder’s actual standing. The senator with the widest range, in his case seeing his positive score (55 percent) run 33 points higher than his negative (22 percent), is North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven (R).

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Texas Race Forming

By Jim Ellis

Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R)

April 25, 2019 — Three-term Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R) is obviously anticipating a tough 2020 fight for re-election. During this year’s first quarter, he led all incumbents in fundraising bringing in $7.8 million to his campaign account and ending the period with $7.4 million cash-on-hand.

It appears the senator will have credible opposition, but quite possibly not the person who most people believed would enter the race.

Though he still hasn’t confirmed or denied that he will become a Senate candidate, reading the figurative political tea leaves suggests that Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) will not run statewide. But, retired Army helicopter pilot, M.J. Hegar (D), will challenge the veteran incumbent who was Texas’ attorney general and a state Supreme Court Justice before running for federal office.

Hegar, who raised more than $5.12 million for her race against veteran Rep. John Carter (R-Round Rock), to whom she lost, announced Tuesday that she is entering the Texas Senate campaign. Though her 2018 announcement video entitled “Doors” (below) — which detailed her wartime heroism and attracted more than 3 million viewers — didn’t result in victory in a strong Republican district against a popular incumbent (she lost 51-48 percent), it did put her on the national political map and raised her status to that of a national congressional candidate and led to her strong fundraising effort.


M.J. Hegar’s “Door” video


Earlier in the year, Rep. Castro began making statements strongly hinting that he would run for the Senate. But, his actions and the latest developments suggest otherwise.

First, there appears to be no internal momentum associated with his building a major campaign. Leading to that conclusion is Castro’s own first quarter fundraising support. From Jan. 1 through March 31, the four-term incumbent and former Texas state representative raised only $36,028 and has just $87,572 in his campaign treasury.
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A Momentum Poll For the Democrats

By Jim Ellis

April 23, 2019 — A new poll was released at week’s end last week, and it may be our best glimpse of the national Democratic presidential picture. As we know, the national count matters little in how the individual states will select delegates, but this polling category does provide a sound measurement of candidate momentum.

Change Research (April 12-15; 2,519 likely Democratic primary voters) just returned results from their latest field poll. Though the 538 statistical research organization only rates Change Research as a C+ pollster, the large respondent universe of just over 2,500 participants certainly gives us the largest national sample sector producing data. Contrast this, for example, with Emerson College’s national primary poll released last week that segmented only 356 respondents.

The Change results find Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) pulling into a virtual tie with former Vice President Joe Biden. Looking at the numbers, Sen. Sanders polls 20 percent, just one point behind Biden’s 21 percent.

Jumping all the way to third place is South Bend (IN) Mayor Pete Buttigieg with a healthy 17 percent support factor. Dropping back into single-digits (nine percent) is former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX). Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren records her typical eight percent, within the tight range she finds in most surveys, which, in this case, is one point ahead of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). The latter senator’s seven percent also represents a considerable support drop, as much as 50 percent when compared to early surveys.

Change also surveyed the field without Biden included. Under this scenario, Sen. Sanders pulls just over a quarter of the sampling universe at 26 percent with Mayor Buttigieg moving into a strong second place with 21 percent, and O’Rourke rebounding to secure 14 percent and third place. Sens. Harris and Warren tie for fourth place with 10 percent.

From a momentum perspective, the Change poll provides further evidence that Sen. Sanders is clearly on the upswing, Biden has stalled just before what is expected to be his official announcement week, Buttigieg is the candidate leaping forward from the back, Harris and O’Rourke appear to be losing support, and Warren remains stagnant at a low level.

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