Category Archives: Senate

The Democrats’ Path

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 25, 2018 — Most of the contemporary political talk surrounds the Democrats’ ability to gain the US House majority, but is there a viable path for a power shift in the Senate? Their road to a new Senate majority is much rockier than for the House, but at least a mathematical chance of that becoming reality does exist.

senate 2018 midterm election competitionLast week we reviewed the status of the 17 states that see legitimate competition for the in-cycle Senate seats. Now, looking at the latest Fox News Senate ratings, we can draw some conclusions about the Democrats’ victory chances.

It is important to remember that the minority Dems must defend 26 of the 35 in-cycle Senate races in the current election cycle. Thus, the party’s least complicated path is to run the table of their current 26 seats, and then take two of the five GOP states where they are fielding credible opposition candidates. Doing so would give the Dems a 51-49 majority.

But, this is easier said than done. According to Fox, and virtually all other media prognosticators, one of the Democratic seats, North Dakota, is already leaning to the Republicans, while three more (Florida, Indiana, and Missouri) reside in the “Toss-up” column.

Of the nine seats the Republicans need to defend, three reside in the Toss-up category (Arizona, Nevada, and Tennessee), while one is classified as a Lean Republican (Texas), and the remaining five (Nebraska, the two Mississippi seats, Utah, and Wyoming) are rated as Likely Republican. (Fox does not use a “safe” designation. The best a candidate of either party can achieve from a Fox News political rating is “likely.”)

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Senate Recap – Part II

By Jim Ellis

US Senate makeup

US Senate makeup

Sept. 24, 2018 — Today we continue our look at the most competitive 17 US Senate contests with our second and final installment. To take a look at our Part I recap, please see our writeup this past Friday at: Senate Recap – Part I.


NEVADA

Sen. Dean Heller (R) is embroiled in an intense re-election battle with freshman Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson) as the two compete for a toss-up Senate seat. Heller won here in 2012 by a single percentage point over then-Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Las Vegas), but that was in the election when President Obama carried Nevada, 52-46 percent.

Polls go back and forth between the senator and congresswoman, but neither leads beyond the margin of polling error. Since the beginning of September three polls have been released, and the average spread between the contenders is just two points. This is a pure toss-up election and, as a Republican defense seat, one of the most important campaigns in the nation.


NEW JERSEY

The Garden State is often a teaser for Republicans, meaning polls routinely suggest their candidates will fare better than actual results portend. The Senate race between incumbent Bob Menendez (D) and pharmaceutical CEO Bob Hugin (R) is likely no exception. Though several polls have indicated the race is competitive, it is probable that Sen. Menendez will pull away and score a comfortable win.

Polling has been scarce. The most recent survey was released in mid-August from Quinnipiac University (Aug. 15-20; 908 registered New Jersey voters) and projects the senator to be leading Hugin, 43-37 percent. Obviously, Menendez corruption trial that ended in the case against him falling apart and being dropped has taken a toll on his favorability index, but it is doubtful that even a 29:47 percent positive to negative personal approval rating (aforementioned Q-Poll) would cost him the election.


NORTH DAKOTA

If polling were the only factor in determining race outlook, then North Dakota would be the Republicans’ best conversion opportunity. Though polls have been anything but plentiful, those that have been published find at-large Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck) leading incumbent Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D).

The most recent study came in early September from Fox News (Sept. 8-11; 701 likely North Dakota voters) and finds Rep. Cramer holding a 48-44 percent advantage. This is the first survey release since the beginning of July.

The North Dakota race is a strong Republican conversion opportunity, but though Cramer appears to have a discernible edge right now, this contest is far from over.


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Senate Recap – Part I

By Jim Ellis

US Senate makeup

Current US Senate makeup

Sept. 21, 2018 — From the 35 US Senate in-cycle races it is clear that the major contests are narrowing to 16 competitive political battles. A 17th campaign, the one in California between Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) and state Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), is also competitive, at least to a degree, but since both candidates are Democrats the outcome will not alter the partisan composition. Therefore, the Golden State does not factor into the battle for the Senate majority.

Today, we look at eight of the races and provide a quick update on the latest developments. Concentrating on the 16, if Republicans win any four they will hold at least a bare majority.


ARIZONA

The race between Reps. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) and Martha McSally (R-Tucson) has been flip flopping in the polls. Seven polls have been released in September. Rep. Sinema has led in five by an average of 3.4 percentage points. Rep. McSally took the lead in two surveys, with a mean of two percentage points.

A new independent group entitled Defend Arizona has launched a series of ads attacking Sinema that highlight previous statements advocating leniency for men who engage in child prostitution when the latter individual looks older than her age. How this line of attack will affect the race remains to be seen.


FLORIDA

Sen. Bill Nelson (D) is facing the strongest challenge of his career from Gov. Rick Scott (R). This race has been frequently polled, and no September study gives either man a lead of more than two points. Three polls project a Scott lead of one or two points. One survey gives Sen. Nelson a one-point edge, and a fifth study finds the two candidates deadlocked in a flat tie at 49 percent apiece.

Some believe that Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s presence on the statewide ticket as the Democratic gubernatorial nominee will help Sen. Nelson, others believe it will hurt. Those arguing that Gillum helps say that he will increase minority turnout, and that Nelson will tangentially benefit because such voters would likely vote straight Democratic. Those believing Gillum is a negative indicate that he will be portrayed as being too far left, which could be an impetus to spur more conservatives to vote.


INDIANA

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) faces former state representative and international businessman Mike Braun (R). Fox News conducted the only September poll in this race. Among likely voters, Braun had a two-point lead. But the registered voter universe tipped the scale toward Sen. Donnelly by a margin of just one point.

This is one more race that is a pure toss-up as we approach the last month of campaigning.


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Texas Sen. Ted Cruz Rebounds

By Jim Ellis

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

Sept. 20, 2018 — A new Quinnipiac University poll (Sept. 11-17; 807 likely Texas voters) finds that Sen. Ted Cruz (R), after languishing in a rather prolonged syndrome where he was only posting small single-digit leads over US Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso), has opened a much larger advantage in his campaign for re-election.

The latest Q-Poll finds Sen. Cruz now topping Rep. O’Rourke, 54-45 percent, his strongest advantage since two polls (Gravis Marketing and YouGov) put him nine and 10 points ahead in early July.

It remains to be seen whether this Quinnipiac poll proves to be an outlier. Up until this release, seven Texas statewide polls had been conducted since early July, all with a mean average of 3.4 percentage points separating Cruz and O’Rourke, but always in the senator’s favor.

This poll suggests that Texas is one of the most polarized states in the country. Both parties produce almost unanimous support for their individual nominee. Sen. Cruz, by a whopping margin of 94-6 percent, commands Republican support. By the same token, Rep. O’Rourke sees virtually the same split forming behind him among Democrats, 94-4 percent. The Independents are leaning toward O’Rourke, 51-47 percent, but the larger number of Lone Star State Republican voters catapults Cruz into a comfortable lead.

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Nevada’s Polling Contradiction

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 19, 2018 — A new survey was just released covering the two Nevada statewide campaigns, and the results are curious.

Gravis Marketing tested the Silver State electorate (Sept. 11-12; 700 likely Nevada voters) and finds consistency with other polling in one race but projects a major change in the other.

Nevada Senate candidate, Rep. Jacky Rosen (D) and Sen. Dean Heller (R)

Nevada Senate candidate, Rep. Jacky Rosen (D), and Sen. Dean Heller (R)

According to Gravis, Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson) holds a 47-45 percent lead over Sen. Dean Heller (R) in the US Senate campaign. Such a conclusion is well within the range of other published data.

Just as Gravis was beginning their survey process, Suffolk University was ending theirs (Sept. 5-10; 500 likely Nevada voters), and they saw Rep. Rosen holding a similarly close 42-41 percent edge. Suffolk also surveyed in late July (July 24-29; 500 likely Nevada voters) and found Sen. Heller clinging to a one-point 41-40 percent lead. All of these consistent findings suggest the Senate race has been, and continues to be, a pure toss-up.

But the same Gravis polling sample produced a radically different conclusion for the open governor’s race. All other previous data found Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak (D) and Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R) locked in a close battle. The same two previous polls cited above for the Senate race, Suffolk University’s Sept. 5-10 survey and their July 24-29 study, actually found Sisolak ahead only 37-35 percent in the former, while Laxalt actually led 42-41 percent in the earlier poll.

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NY State Results; The Fox Polls

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 14, 2018 — Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as predicted, easily won the Democratic gubernatorial primary last night with a 65-35 percent victory over actress Cynthia Nixon. Late polling projected the governor to be breaking the 60 percent threshold with Nixon lagging way behind. He will now have little trouble winning a third term in the general election against the new Republican nominee, Duchess County Executive Marc Molinaro.

fox-news-polls-for-key-senate-racesUS Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney’s (D-Cold Spring/West Point) quest to become the state’s attorney general ended last night. Despite a late poll suggesting he had forged into the lead, Maloney dropped to third position in the actual vote.

The Democratic primary winner was New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, who said that she “ … can’t wait to wake up each and every day, go to the office, sue somebody and then go home,” in her victory speech and stated that she wants to target President Trump, the NRA, and state corruption, captured 38 percent of the Democratic primary vote.

In second, with 30 percent, was frequent Democratic candidate Zephyr Teachout who challenged Gov. Cuomo back in the 2014 party primary. Rep. Maloney drew only 24 percent. He will now return to the congressional campaign trail since he was re-nominated back in the June federal primary.


THE FOX POLLS

Fox News just released a series of five polls in key US Senate states where they find very close races. Fox conducts its surveys jointly through two research entities, a Democratic polling company, Anderson Robbins Research, and the Republican firm of Shaw & Company Research.

All five studies were conducted during the Sept. 8-11 period. The organizations used the live interview method to conduct their data gathering through a combination of landline and cell phone calls. The polling universes begin with a registered voter pool from which likely voter segments are derived. Results are reported for both the larger and more refined polling cells. In all cases, the candidates’ individual approval ratings differed very little between registered voters and likely voters.

Arizona (801 registered Arizona voters; 710 likely voters)
• Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) has a 47-44 percent edge over Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) among likely voters and 46-42 percent within the broader registered voters universe.
• President Trump’s Arizona job approval rating is 49:49 percent positive to negative. This contrasts with Rep. Sinema’s 52:35 percent index and McSally’s 47:43 percent.

Obviously, the ballot test shows that either candidate can win the race. Rep. McSally has a lesser favorability rating than Rep. Sinema largely because she was attacked in a multi-candidate primary, whereas the latter woman was a consensus Democratic candidate who breezed through the primary without being forced to absorb negative hits.
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New Hampshire Results

By Jim Ellis

the-primariesSept. 12, 2018 — The election cycle’s final primary week began yesterday in the Granite State. Tomorrow, Rhode Islanders go to the polls, and on Thursday New Yorkers return to choose state nominees after their federal candidates were selected on June 26.

In the NH governor’s race, former state Sen. Molly Kelly easily defeated ex-Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand to win the Democratic primary. With a turnout of over 100,000 voters, Kelly recorded a 66 percent victory. She will now challenge first-term Gov. Chris Sununu, who was unopposed in the Republican primary.

Two years ago, Sununu, the son of former governor and White House chief of staff John Sununu and brother of ex-senator and congressman John E. Sununu, defeated Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern (D), 49-47 percent. With strong approval ratings, Gov. Sununu begins the general election as a decided favorite to defeat Kelly.

The race, billed as the most competitive battle of the day, proved to be less than a nail-biter. Eleven Democrats were battling for the right to succeed retiring Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-Rochester) as the party nominee for an eastern New Hampshire congressional district that has regularly swung back and forth between the parties since 2006.

Last night, Executive Councilor and restaurant owner Chris Pappas rather easily won the Democratic primary, capturing 42 percent of the vote with the remaining 58 percent spread among the remaining 10. As expected, his closest opponent was Maura Sullivan, a strong fundraiser who was a former US Veterans Affairs Department official in the Obama Administration. She scored 30 percent, but no other candidate even reached the 10 percent plateau.

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