Tag Archives: Wisconsin

Turnout 2020: Up, then Down

By Jim Ellis

June 8, 2020 — In most political campaigns, the final electoral result is determined not necessarily from transforming undecided individuals into positive votes, but rather ensuring that the candidate’s committed supporters actually cast their ballot. Therefore, accurately projecting and influencing voter turnout becomes critical for every campaign.

Before the COVID-19 virus struck, many analysts and political prognosticators were predicting a record turnout in the 2020 general election, thus exceeding 2016’s all-time high 136.8 million presidential election ballots. Many stated that breaking 150 million voters was possible, with some even believing that was likely. The post-COVID primary vote participation figures now suggest otherwise, however.

There is a big difference in voter turnout before and after the COVID-19 virus attack. Prior to the March 18 societal shutdown, 25 states had held presidential primary or major caucus elections, meaning up to and including the March 17 election date in Arizona, Florida, and Illinois. North Dakota and Wyoming, because of the small attendance figures in their caucuses and reporting system, are not included in this matrix.

By mid-March, former vice president Joe Biden had broken away from the pack of Democratic candidates, and all of his major opponents had either dropped out of the race or were headed down that path. When voters cast their ballots on March 17, only Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) were advancing to the April 7 primary in Wisconsin.

Through March 17, Democratic primary turnout was up substantially from 2016, and on projected pace to meet the high turnout general election predictions if such a trend continued throughout the remainder of the election year. Republican turnout was down substantially in comparison to 2016, but that is obviously because President Trump had no serious opposition for re-nomination. Therefore, only the Democratic turnout numbers are viable for making statistically relevant calculations and projections.

Through the 25 tested presidential primaries ending March 17, turnout was up 14.8 percent when compared to the open race four years ago in the 17 states that held primary or major caucus elections in both 2016 and 2020. Since the COVID shutdown, however, Democratic voter participation has fallen. In the 11 post-COVID states that held Democratic primary elections in both 2016 and 2020, turnout dropped 21.2 percent when comparing the participation figures from the aforementioned election years.

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Is A Budding Red Rebound Emerging?

By Jim Ellis

May 19, 2020 — Two years ago, several national political prognosticators were predicting a strong Democratic election, i.e., “a blue wave,” by using special election results, mostly from state legislative campaigns, as one of their fundamental support arguments. As we know, the forecast proved correct.

To what degree the special election totals were a precursor is difficult to say, but it is reasonable to believe that real-time results are a better voting trend indicator than publicly released polls, many of which are methodologically flawed. Therefore, it is worth analyzing similar voting patterns as we approach the 2020 election.

North Carolina Rep. Dan Bishop (R-Charlotte)

The victory of Republican Mike Garcia in California last week marked the first congressional special election of this election cycle to flip from one party to the other. Republicans have won five of the six special US House contests, including those of Garcia and Wisconsin state Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua), who easily claimed his state’s vacant 7th District, last Tuesday.

The other significant special election occurred late last year. Though Rep. Dan Bishop’s (R-Charlotte) victory in North Carolina came in a seat that historically produced Republican victories, he was certainly considered an underdog at the outset of the special election campaign. He rebounded, however, to score a two-point victory, nonetheless, which in many ways makes it as noteworthy as the Garcia win.

The NC-9 election was necessitated because voter fraud in the 2018 general election prevented the Republican candidate from being certified the winner. After almost a year of keeping the seat vacant, the state’s Board of Elections called a new election that Gov. Roy Cooper (D) scheduled for Sept. 10, 2019.

In the campaign, Bishop was outspent $7.5 million to $2.7 million and that was on top of the $6.1 million Democrat Dan McCready expended in the 2018 general election. Furthermore, Democratic strategists predicted victory in this race because the Charlotte-Fayetteville seat contains a large suburban population, the type of district where their candidates certainly excelled in 2018, and President Trump’s job approval ratings were languishing around the 40 percent mark at the time. All things considered, the Bishop victory should not be characterized as a routine Republican hold.

According to the Ballotpedia election research organization, during the 2018 voting cycle, 197 special state legislative elections were held around the country, 98 of them in 2017, and 99 in 2018. Republicans risked 110 of the seats, substantially higher than the 87 the Democrats were forced to defend. In 2017, Democrats gained a net 11 legislative seats nationally, and eight more in 2018 for a cycle total of 19 net flips (Democrats actually won 26 Republican-held seats, but the GOP took back seven Democratic districts). It was these numbers that largely led the prognosticators to point to changing trends.

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Tiffany Wins in Wisconsin;
Nebraska Primary Nominees Chosen

By Jim Ellis

May 13, 2020 — Wisconsin Republican state Sen. Tom Tiffany, as expected, easily won the special congressional election last night in the Badger State’s northwest 7th District with 57.2 percent of the vote from a huge voter turnout universe of just under 192,000 individuals. The Democratic nominee, Wausau School Board member Tricia Zunker, was a consensus candidate for the special, but she raised less than $500,000 for the race and the national Democratic institution did little to assist her from the outside.

Once the vote tally is finalized, the Wisconsin Elections Commission will certify the result and Tiffany will be sworn into the House of Representatives to complete former congressman Sean Duffy’s (R-Wausau) term. Duffy resigned from office in August of last year for family reasons and the seat has been vacant ever since.

The 7th District occupies 21 central and northwest Wisconsin counties and parts of five others. For more than 40 years, former House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey (D) represented the district. Rep. Duffy won the seat for the first time in 2010 after Obey chose to retire after serving 21 terms in office. Since the 2010 election, the district has moved toward the Republicans, and Tiffany’s victory seems to cement the seat as safe territory for the GOP.

The congressman-elect now will enter the regular 2020 primary scheduled for Aug. 11. The candidate filing deadline is June 1, but it is unlikely he will see much competition in either the primary or general election considering last night’s strong performance.


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Election Day Today:
California, Nebraska, Wisconsin

By Jim Ellis

May 11, 2020 — Two congressional special general elections will be conducted today, but only one is expected to produce a winner tonight. Additionally, voters in Nebraska are casting ballots in their regular state primary.

The two special elections are in California and Wisconsin. The California seat, vacated when scandal-ridden freshman Rep. Katie Hill (D) resigned from office in October, has been controversial for a few weeks. The quieter contest is in Wisconsin where Republican state Senator Tom Tiffany is expected to hold the northwest 7th District that former Congressman Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) vacated for family reasons.

In the Cornhusker State, since first-term Sen. Ben Sasse has little opposition in the Republican primary and what appears to be seven minor statewide Democratic candidates vying for the party nomination – none have even raised $100,000 – the race garnering the most attention is the 2nd Congressional District primary.

There, Rep. Don Bacon (R-Papillon/Omaha) runs for a third term in what is again expected to be a competitive general election. Democrat Kara Eastman, who held Rep. Bacon to a 51-49% victory in 2018, is back on the ballot today principally facing Ann Ashford, the wife of former one-term US Rep. Brad Ashford (D-Omaha), and is favored to win tonight.

The California race in the state’s 25th District, which occupies much of northern Los Angeles County and a sliver of Ventura County, is formerly a Republican seat that switched to the Democrats in 2018. Clearly moving toward the latter party in terms of demographics and voting trends, the seat is still politically marginal to the degree where either side could win. Both candidates have spent over $2.2 million and are at parity in outside spending coming into the district for a contest that has sparked controversy.

Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Newhall), who represents close to half the district in the state legislature, was caught on camera disparaging Republican Mike Garcia’s military record. Mr. Garcia is a retired Navy fighter pilot. Ms. Smith later publicly apologized for her comments.

Furthermore, Republicans are already calling foul over how the election is being administered. President Trump, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and Garcia have raised concern whether the election will be fair. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) ordered this special contest conducted primarily by mail, and in California the state allows voters to postmark their ballot on Election Day meaning votes could take days to reach the county election authorities considering the state of mail delivery during the COVID-19 shut down.

In addition to the mail ballots, the state has organized fewer than 15 voting centers for people to vote in person. Another point of controversy — a new voting center was just added in the city of Lancaster, which is predominantly Democratic and 69 percent majority minority. Additionally, as Rep. McCarthy illustrates, Gov. Newsom closed the state’s beaches in response to COVID-19 health concerns but won’t heed his motion to suspend door-to-door ballot harvesting for this election.

In a way, the special election is somewhat moot. The counties have until July 15 to certify the election, so it is clear we will not have a final count for days if not weeks, thus allowing the winner even less time in Congress. Regardless of the outcome, both Garcia and Smith will advance to the regular November election, where the campaign will be re-run. Republicans sense an upset possibility, but Democrats have much more on the line. Losing a Democratic seat in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s home state might well sound an alarm for their general election prospects.

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Polling At Odds

By Jim Ellis

April 24, 2020 — A series of surveys were conducted by several independent pollsters in the most critical states that will likely determine the outcome of the 2020 presidential campaign, and the results are somewhat conflicting.

Largely consistent data comes in polls from three pollsters: Fox News, Ipsos, and Quinnipiac University. They surveyed the electorates in Florida (Quinnipiac), Michigan (Fox News and Ipsos), Pennsylvania (Fox News and Ipsos), and Wisconsin (Ipsos). All of the studies were conducted during the April 15-21 period. The pollsters did not collaborate, each directing their own surveys individually.

The results in all of these states found former vice president Joe Biden leading President Trump, obviously a strong positive sign for Biden since the candidate carrying the preponderance of these particular states will win the national election.

The Biden advantage in each poll ranges from three percentage points (Ipsos in Wisconsin) to eight (Fox News in both Pennsylvania and Michigan; Ipsos in Michigan).

Florida is one of the core states for President Trump, meaning that it’s one of the five most important places that he must carry to win the election. Here, Quinnipiac finds Biden leading the incumbent, 46-42 percent, which is more exaggerated than most current Sunshine State polls. We must also acknowledge that Republicans have been under-polling in Florida during recent elections by approximately two percentage points. If typical Florida political trends continue through this election, we will see a very close final tally.

The Great Lakes states covered in this Update are all in the swing category, and President Trump will have to at least carry one of them to claim a national victory. Conversely, if the President holds his five core states (Arizona, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas), then Biden would likely be forced to carry all of the Great Lakes’ swings: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Another research entity is also in the picture, however. Change Research, polling for CNBC (April 17-18; 5,787 likely voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) also tested the critical battleground states just after the other pollsters completed their questioning phase. The CNBC poll, as well, was an independent undertaking and not executed in conjunction with any other research firm.

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