Category Archives: Senate

New Hampshire Senate:
Toss-up Results

By Jim Ellis

New Hampshire first-term incumbent Sen. Maggie Hassan (D)

Oct. 25, 2021 — Only needing to gain a net one seat to claim the Senate majority, Republicans face a frustrating in-cycle map that yields few 2022 Democratic targets. One of those scarce opportunities, however, lies in the Granite State of New Hampshire.

Arguably, the New Hampshire race is the party’s best conversion opportunity and becomes a Republican prerequisite toward building a winning coalition of states. The latest University of New Hampshire poll, released late last week, suggests the GOP is well positioned to compete in the “Live Free or Die” region of New England.

The regular UNH Granite State poll (Oct. 14-18; 1,061 New Hampshire panel members, 979 likely New Hampshire voters, online) tested first-term incumbent Sen. Maggie Hassan (D) against several potential Republican opponents … and she falls into an early toss-up result against all.

First, a word about the UNH polling operation. Several years ago it was among the most inaccurate of pollsters, largely because they utilized long sampling periods sometimes lasting three weeks, and small respondent universes. They have improved since that time, though their online format chosen for this poll is typically not optimal.

The FiveThirtyEight statistical organization, in their latest pollster rankings, rates the UNH operation as their 112th best pollster, with a B- rating. They assign a 2.4 percent Democratic bias factor to the organization’s polling results over 122 tested surveys.

That being said, yesterday’s survey release finds Gov. Chris Sununu (R) again leading Sen. Hassan in a hypothetical ballot test pairing. There is no doubt Republican leaders are trying to persuade Gov. Sununu to run, but so far he has not committed to the race. He has the opportunity of running for a fourth gubernatorial term – New Hampshire has two-year terms for their governors – or pursing opportunities in the private sector.

This poll finds the Sununu advantage at three percentage points, 45-42 percent, which is of course in toss-up range, but seeing an incumbent well below 50 percent does not bode well for Sen. Hassan.

UNH also tested the senator against the woman she defeated by a tenth of a percentage point in 2016, or just over 1,000 votes statewide, former Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R). The new poll virtually replays that result, posting Sen. Hassan to a bare 44-43 percent edge.

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Q3 FEC Senate Cash Updates

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 22, 2021 — The 3rd Quarter campaign finance summaries and reports are now publicly available at the Federal Election Commission website, and we have the recap for the key competitive Senate races in this Update. As typical for political campaigns since the latter part of the previous decade, the dollar figures are again astronomical.

The amounts are in hundreds of thousands, and COH refers to the candidates’ total cash-on-hand figures since the 2022 election cycle began. The Daily Kos Election website statisticians calculated the 3rd Quarter dollar amounts.

Alaska

CANDIDATE 3rd QTR RAISED (,000) TOTAL COH (,000)
Murkowski $1,062 $3,244
Tshibaka $460 $294

Sen. Lisa Murkowski and former State Administration Director Kelly Tshibaka are the only two candidates who filed disclosure reports. Despite an endorsement from former President Donald Trump, the Tshibaka financial figures are less than expected. With Alaska’s new top four primary system, the early money is rather irrelevant since four candidates, including Sen. Murkowski and Ms. Tshibaka, will advance into the general election.


Arizona

CANDIDATE 3rd QTR RAISED (,000) TOTAL COH (,000)
Kelly $7,217 $13,001
Masters $1,008 $864
Brnovich $559 $515
Lamon $133 $3,606

Sen. Mark Kelly continues to be one of the most prolific fundraisers of all Senate candidates. His huge $13.1 million cash-on-hand figure is topped only by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s $31.8 million, and Sens. Raphael Warnock’s (D-GA) $17.2 million and John Thune’s (R-SD) $14.8 million. Candidate Blake Masters is rumored to be benefiting from an outside $10 million Super PAC that billionaire Peter Thiel funds. Candidate Jim Lamon self-funded most of his $3 million-plus cash-on-hand total.


Florida

CANDIDATE 3rd QTR RAISED (,000) TOTAL COH (,000)
Demings $8,351 $5,967
Rubio $5,928 $9,612

Sen. Marco Rubio had a very strong fundraising quarter, but so did his opponent, Rep. Val Demings. Both have large war chests, but each has already spent millions to achieve these totals. Both candidates will advance into a competitive and expensive general election campaign in the Sunshine State.


Georgia

CANDIDATE 3rd QTR RAISED (,000) TOTAL COH (,000)
Warnock $9,432 $17,217
Walker $3,764 $2,477
Black $564 $928

Sen. Raphael Warnock raised more money in the quarter than any Senate candidate and already has a huge war chest. Herschel Walker’s first fundraising quarter as a candidate, and a partial one at that, has to be considered highly successful, but his resources pale in comparison to the incumbent’s dollar raising machine.


Iowa

CANDIDATE 3rd QTR RAISED (,000) TOTAL COH (,000)
Finkenauer $1,019 $598
Grassley $814 $3,064

Sen. Chuck Grassley announced his intention to seek re-election just a week before the third-period fundraising cycle ended. While he didn’t raise as much as his present chief opponent during the third quarter, former US Rep. Abby Finkenauer, his resource total is substantially better than hers and sets him in strong position to launch a massive fundraising effort.


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New Tight Nevada Polling

By Jim Ellis

Former Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV)

Oct. 6, 2021 — The Nevada Independent online news site commissioned a September Mellman Group statewide poll (Sept. 15-22; 600 likely Nevada voters, live interview) just as former US Sen. Dean Heller (R) was announcing that he will join the Republican field vying to challenge Gov. Steve Sisolak (D). The results and analysis were released Monday.

The pollsters also tested the US Senate race between first-term Democratic incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and former Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R). Both the gubernatorial and the US Senate contest returned close general election projections.

Nevada has featured close elections in the previous decade leading up to the 2022 voting cycle. Of the 18 statewide electoral contests between and including 2012 and 2020, Democrats have averaged 49.0 percent of the vote and Republicans’ 45.2 percent. In eight of the 18 campaigns, the winner recorded only plurality support.

During the time span, Democrats won 10 statewide races and Republicans won eight, but the GOP has scored only one victory since 2016. Therefore, it is not surprising to again see close polling data, and we can expect similar results throughout the campaign cycle.

According to the Mellman data, Gov. Sisolak would lead ex-Sen. Heller, 46-43 percent, but the small margin tightens even further if Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo were to win the Republican nomination. In the Sisolak-Lombardo pairing, the governor edges the sheriff by half a percentage point, 44.9 – 44.4 percent.

In the Republican primary, asked of only those who said they plan to vote in that contest though the sample number was not released, Heller led Sheriff Lombardo, 31-23 percent, with former professional boxer Joey Gilbert and North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee trailing with 11 and three percent, respectively.

On the positive side for Gov. Sisolak, his favorability index is only slightly upside-down at 46:48 percent, despite his handling of the COVID-19 virus getting a heavy 38:59 percent negative rating. He leads in all-important Clark County by 10 and seven points against Heller and Lombardo, respectively.

The governor saw a negative reading coming from Washoe County (Reno), however, which tends to act as a bellwether of the Nevada vote and an entity that Sisolak carried in 2018 against then-Attorney General Laxalt. The Mellman poll posted Heller to an eight-point lead over Sisolak in Washoe, while Sheriff Lombardo enjoyed a six-point edge.

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Nebraska Redistricting Map Set; Surprises in Arizona Senate Polling

Nebraska’s new three-district congressional map

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 4, 2021 — The Cornhusker State of Nebraska has joined Oregon and Colorado in completing its redistricting process as Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) late last week signed into law the new three-district congressional map.

The new map is similar to the previous plan. It slightly improves Rep. Don Bacon’s (R-Papillon/Omaha) 2nd District while keeping the Omaha metro area together as a complete unit. The 2nd will remain competitive, though Rep. Bacon will be in stronger position to seek a fourth term. He was re-elected last November with a 51-46 percent margin in defeating Democrat Kara Eastman for the second time and defending himself against a $4.5 million opposition campaign.

Rep. Adrian Smith’s (R-Gering) 3rd District again stretches the width of the state, from Colorado and Wyoming all the way to Iowa and the northwestern corner of Missouri. This time the 3rd even goes so far as to border Omaha’s Douglas County.

It is likely the new Nebraska map will continue to send three Republicans to the House, though Democrats will undoubtedly return to target Rep. Bacon in District 2.

Arizona Senate

Phoenix-based OH Predictive Insights tested the Arizona electorate as they regularly do (released Sept. 29 & Sept. 7-12; 882 registered Arizona voters, online opt-in panel) and finds freshman Sen. Mark Kelly (D) leading all potential Republican general election opponents, but with percentages well below majority support in all tested instances.

As you will remember, Sen. Kelly, after a difficult and expensive 2020 campaign in which he raised an incredible $101 million to defeat appointed Martha McSally (R), won the special election, 51-49 percent, to fill the remainder of the late Sen. John McCain’s (R) final term. He now returns to the campaign trail in order to win a full six-year term in 2022.

At this point, Attorney General Mark Brnovich, venture capitalist Blake Masters, solar energy company Jim Lamon, and retired Arizona National Guard Adjutant General Mick McGuire comprise the top tier of the Republican field. OHPI tested each man individually opposite Sen. Kelly.

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Sen. Grassley to Seek Re-Election

By Jim Ellis

Iowa’s seven-term US Sen. Chuck Grassley (R)

Sept. 28, 2021 — Saying he “ … has a lot more to do for Iowa,” seven-term Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) on Friday announced that he will run for an eighth term next year. Recently, the senator said he would make his decision about launching a 2022 campaign on or before Nov. 1.

Sen. Grassley was one of three Republican incumbents who had not declared their re-election intentions. Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and John Thune (R-SD) both say they will announce their decisions later in the fall. All 14 in-cycle Democrats are on an active re-election track.

Sen. Grassley is already the longest-serving Iowa US senator, originally elected on the same night when Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1980. He has been an elected official since winning his first term in the state House of Representatives back in 1958. Should he win the coming election and complete his next term, he will have served 70 consecutive years as a public official, counting his time in the state legislature, US House and Senate.

It appears the senator is in strong political shape for the coming campaign. At this point, he faces only state Sen. Jim Carlin (R-Sioux City) in the Republican primary.

When he entered the race, it was speculated that Carlin was attempting to get a head start on an open Republican primary in anticipation that the 88-year-old senator would announce his retirement. He indicated that he planned to stay in the race regardless of Sen. Grassley’s intentions, but now that the incumbent’s campaign is official we will see if Carlin continues in his long shot statewide effort.

The leading Democrat is former Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer. She served two terms in the state House of Representatives, and then defeated incumbent US Rep. Rod Blum (R) in the 2018 election. She would subsequently lose her first re-election bid to current Congresswoman Ashley Hinson (R-Marion/Cedar Rapids). Now, like so many others who have recently lost elections, Finkenauer is attempting to run for a higher office.

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Michigan Gov. Whitmer
Falters in New Polls

By Jim Ellis

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D)

Sept. 23, 2021 — We have further evidence that the Michigan governor’s race is going to be a highly competitive political contest next year. A pair of new polls, following one in late August, find Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) either in a virtual dead heat with, or trailing, former Detroit Police Chief James Craig (R).

The Trafalgar Group and Strategic National, Inc. were both in the Michigan field during virtually the same time realm to test the impending governor’s race. Trafalgar (Sept. 13-15; 1,097 likely Michigan voters; live interview, interactive voice response system, online, and text) actually finds the governor slipping behind Craig by a 50-44% count. Strategic National (Sept. 18-19; 600 likely Michigan voters) arrived at a much tighter contest with the governor still in the lead. Their result projected a razor thin 46.6 – 46.0 percent margin.

Gov. Whitmer has become controversial even nationally through her draconian COVID shut down measures, and then being caught on several occasions as eschewing the dictates for herself and family. As the Strategic National poll shows, however, the governor’s favorable and unfavorable opinions are equivalent … and almost everyone feels strongly about their preference.

In terms of her personal favorability index, the responses divide 50:48 percent favorable to unfavorable. The strongly held position, however, spins toward the negative category. Of those who comprise Gov. Whitmer’s 50 percent positive rating, 35 percent, or 70 percent of those professing a positive opinion, feel strongly.

The negative segmentation is more intense. From the 48 percent who hold a negative view of Whitmer, 42 percent, or 87 percent of those holding an adversarial opinion, believe so strongly. Her job approval rating responses, though a different question, yields an almost identical pattern.

The polarization factor is, unsurprisingly, extreme when it comes to the respondents’ opinion about how she’s handled the coronavirus. By a margin of 52:47 percent, the sampling universe approves of her measures to combat the disease. And, in this instance, those feeling strongly on both sides break about evenly.

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Ohio Data: Below the Surface

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 10, 2021 — The London-based Redfield & Wilton Strategies international survey research firm tested electorates in several American states at the end of August, and today we look at their Ohio results. With a major open Senate campaign and a Republican governor seeking re-election in 2022, the Buckeye State is once again a national political focal point for the coming political year.

Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan announces his candidacy for the 2020 Presidential Election on the TV talk show, “The View.”

The Redfield & Wilton poll (Aug. 20-24; 1,200 likely Ohio voters) finds the Republican Senate candidates performing adequately opposite US Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Warren/Youngstown), who, at this early stage, has become the Democrats’ consensus statewide Senate contender.

Former state treasurer and 2012 US Senate candidate Josh Mandel (R) holds a 51-47 percent ballot test lead over Rep. Ryan within the sample segment who are self-identified as likely 2022 general election voters. Author J.D. Vance (R) largely falls into a dead heat with Ryan, trailing 37-36 percent, as does former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken who places within two points of the congressman, 38-36 percent.

In the governor’s race, incumbent Republican Mike DeWine, who former Rep. Jim Renacci is challenging in the GOP primary from the ideological right, looks to be in strong shape against potential Democratic opponents. If Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley were the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Gov. DeWine would post a 46-27 percent advantage. Should Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley become the Democratic nominee, he would trail the governor by a slightly larger 47-25 percent spread.

Generally, the Ohio polling pattern leans Democratic in the early going and then closes in the Republican candidates’ favor, while consistently understating GOP strength.

In the 2020 presidential election, Ohio polls in July of the election year were returning Joe Biden leads of 4-8 percentage points before former President Trump would rebound to score a mean average 1.0 percent polling lead close to election day, and then win the state going away with an eight-point margin, 53-45 percent. In 2016, the pattern was similar. In the July-September period, Hillary Clinton held leads of between 4 and 7 percentage points only to see the average favor Trump by a 2.2 percent spread. He would win the state 51-43 percent.

The same pattern occurred for Sen. Rob Portman (R) in 2016 and was present to a degree against Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) in 2018. In June through September of that year, certain polls found former Gov. Ted Strickland (D) leading incumbent Portman with a 3-6 point edge. As the race closed, Sen. Portman established an average 18-point lead and won 58-37 percent.

Even in a Democratic victory, the polling trend favoring Democrats early and then closing for the GOP toward election day was again present. During June-September of 2018, Sen. Brown held leads between 13-17 points. Going into the election, his polling average had slipped to 11 points, and he only won with a 6.4 percent margin.

Keeping this pattern in mind and then looking at the underlying Biden job approval numbers in the R&W poll suggests that even today, the GOP candidates are poised for a stronger finish than the current results yield. Overall, the Redfield & Wilton figures point to a 40:46 percent favorable to unfavorable presidential approval ratio for Biden, which isn’t particularly bad particularly in a state that the subject did not win. The underlying numbers, however, point to a much greater negative.

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