By Jim Ellis — Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023
PresidentSiena College/NYT Poll: Trouble for Biden in Swing States — Siena College and the New York Times teamed up on recent polls in six key swing states all conducted during the Oct. 22 to Nov. 3 period. The six states are: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The tested Republicans against President Joe Biden were former President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and ex-UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. In all instances, with the exception of Trump in Wisconsin, the named Republican would poll ahead of President Biden, thus unseating him if the election were today.
Of the three Republicans, Haley performs the strongest against the Biden. Her best number, +14, comes among Wisconsin likely voters. Trump’s best state is Nevada (+11); DeSantis tops President Biden by five percentage points among Arizona registered voters; Biden’s best showing comes against Trump in Wisconsin (+2).
The Democrats certainly have time to right their political ship, and if Trump is convicted in any of his criminal cases, that might get adjudicated before the election, and the tables could quickly turn. This campaign will prove the most unique of presidential elections.
Déjà Vu: Incumbents Reign — The 2023 odd-numbered year elections are now in the books, and, as we saw on Election Night, the results are very similar to what occurred a year earlier in the 2022 midterm elections.
Most of the political pundits are calling this election year a victory for Democrats despite having an unpopular president in office, while others cite the abortion issue as a continuing turnout driver, which also benefits Democrats. Both statements are true, but perhaps the more definitive underlying pattern is that the incumbents, just as they did in 2022, again reign supreme.
In 2022, 55 of the 56 US senators and governors who ran for re-election won. In the US House elections, 98.1 percent of incumbents who ran for re-election were successful. On Election Night, we saw two more incumbent governors win again.
Governors Andy Beshear (D) and Tate Reeves (R) in Kentucky and Mississippi, respectively, were re-elected with similar five percentage point margins. Polling in the two states suggested a closer result for both incumbents, but each was favored to win.
The Virginia situation is a bit different. Largely due to new court-imposed redistricting maps that radically changed the complexion of most districts, voters elected Democratic majorities in both houses of the legislature. It is inconsistent to rate the Virginia results as incumbent-oriented because we saw roughly one-third of all districts run without incumbents, and most of those office holders who did seek re-election found themselves in new districts vastly different from the one in which they were originally elected.
Democrats will now have at least 21 of 40 seats in the Virginia state Senate and 52 of 100 in the House of Delegates. The party division margin differences yield no change in the Senate, while Democrats converted at least four seats in the House.
While it’s difficult to overlay an incumbent victory matrix across the Old Dominion legislative elections, it is not unusual to see a state that has become reliably Democratic over the past two decades to again vote for that party’s candidates in the 2023 elections. Therefore, the fact that the state’s favored party over the course of time again performed better is consistent with the incumbent voting pattern seen elsewhere.
The abnormal facet of the incumbent-oriented elections we have witnessed in 2022 and now 2023 is that the issue polls consistently show voters certainly believing the country is headed down the wrong track, with similar feelings regarding most states. The state right direction/wrong track questions, however, are not as intensely negative as at the national level.
Yet, despite the recorded discontent, voters return to their respective polling places and almost unanimously re-elect the incumbents. This again suggests that the Republican campaign message machine needs an overhaul. It is clear that their campaign themes and approaches are not driving enough voters to support the GOP candidates in the most hotly contested races.
Once numbers become finalized, we can better understand the results. Because the 2023 vote tabulations verified the pattern set in 2022, it is likely this precursor favors incumbents at large, and more specifically the Democrats, to have another positive election year in 2024 despite what today’s issue polls may currently be projecting.
Michigan: Ex-Rep. Meijer Announces — Former one-term Congressman Peter Meijer (R), who was defeated for renomination in 2022, announced Monday that he will join the open Michigan US Senate field. The move had been expected for weeks, but is a curious one, nonetheless. It is hard to see a victory path for Rep. Meijer since he couldn’t get enough conservative support to defeat his ’22 GOP challenger, John Gibbs. Gibbs would then go onto lose the general election to now freshman Rep. Hillary Scholten (D-Grand Rapids).
The top Republican contenders for the party’s Senate nomination are former US Rep. Mike Rogers and retired Detroit Police Chief James Craig. It is possible that Meijer’s entry could actually help Rogers, since Craig and Meijer will likely both appeal to the more centrist element of the Republican voter base. If so, this will help Rogers unite the conservatives behind his candidacy and propel him to the nomination. Whoever wins the Republican primary will almost assuredly face Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing) in the general election.
The open Michigan race is likely to be close, but Democrats will have at least a slight edge in the general election. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) is retiring after serving what will be four full terms once the current congressional session concludes at the beginning of 2025.
RI-1: Gabe Amo (D) Wins Special Election — Former Biden and Obama White House aide Gabe Amo virtually assured himself of succeeding resigned Rep. David Cicilline (D-Providence) when he won the Sept. 5 special Democratic primary. Amo easily defeated Republican Gerry Leonard Tuesday in the special general election. Upon winning the seat, Amo now will be sworn in to the House and serve the balance of the current term.
Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District is solidly Democratic. The FiveThirtyEight data organization rates the seat as D+32. Dave’s Redistricting App calculates the partisan lean at 64.9D – 33.1R. President Biden carried the seat with a 64-35 percent victory margin in 2020. The Daily Kos Elections site ranks the seat as the 99th most vulnerable seat in the Democratic Conference — pretty secure. Therefore, there was little doubt as to which candidate would win the special election.
The Amo victory will bring the Democrats back to their full 213-member compliment in the House. The next special election, in UT-2, will be held on Nov. 21. Republican Celeste Maloy is favored to hold resigned Rep. Chris Stewart’s (R-Farmington) seat. Should she win, the House will be restored to its post-regular election division of 222R-213D.