The "BIPAC Daily" Political Analysis Newsletter

The following political analysis is from Business-Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC) Political Analyst Jim Ellis. BIPAC is an independent, bipartisan organization.  It is provided solely as a membership benefit to the organization’s 300-plus member companies and trade associations. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of any particular member or the organization generally.

Please click on the links below to read our recent articles.

March 29, 2017 — VA Race Becoming More Interesting
March 28, 2017 — House Opens - A Growing List
March 27, 2017 — Another Questionable Poll
March 24, 2017 — New Apportionment Patterns
March 23, 2017 — More Sunshine Polling

VA Race Becoming More Interesting
March 29, 2017
By: Jim Ellis
A new poll continues to show that former Virginia US Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Charlottesville) is pulling even with Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam in the Democratic gubernatorial primary scheduled for mid-June.  Until Perriello became a late entry into the statewide campaign, Mr. Northam looked to have an easy ride to the party nomination.
Now, the latest Christopher Newport University survey (3/16-26; 831 VA registered voters) finds Northam and Perriello tied at 26% preference less than three months before the June 13th statewide primary election. 
The March poll is the second that the university has commissioned. Their first, in mid to late January (1/15-28; 1,002 VA registered voters; 464 self-identified Democrats and Independents who lean Democratic), found Mr. Northam holding an eleven-point lead over the former Congressman but with 59% of the primary electorate undecided. 
A mid-February Quinnipiac University poll (2/10-15; 989 VA registered voters of whom 462 self-identify as Democrats) projected Northam and Perriello tied at 19% apiece.
The latest CNU study also arrives at the tie conclusion, and its segmentation provides us better insight about how the primary is beginning to unfold. 
With Perriello coming from the party’s left wing, and Northam garnering most establishment Democratic primary voters’ support, the Virginia gubernatorial primary appears to becoming a microcosm of the same political dynamics so prevalent in the Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.
Here, the CNU data portends that Clinton voters break for Northam in a 34-25% margin, while Sanders’ supporters lean toward Perriello, 32-21%. As this campaign better develops and voters become more familiar with each man, the Clinton-Sanders split is likely to polarize even further.
The geographical cell groups are also telling, and actually harbor better news for Mr. Perriello. The fact that he is tied statewide when the northern Virginia vote is breaking for Northam by a 22-14% clip gives Perriello ample opportunity for growth. Becoming better known, he should be able to sway the liberal base voter who dominates northern Virginia’s Democratic primary composition. 
As expected, Northam does best in his home base in and around the Tidewater region, leading 33-19% within the cell sample labeled “Hampton Roads.” Perriello has substantial leads in the Richmond region, which includes most of his old 5th Congressional District (38-27%), and in southwest Virginia, 43-23%. In this latter case, Northam has the chance to improve his position within what is generally a more moderate to conservative region. 
Another growth area for Perriello, which tracks with the reported northern Virginia geographical segmentation, is the ex-Congressman maintaining only a one-point 30-29% edge over Northam among self-identified liberals. Since Perriello is the more liberal of the two men, he has growth potential within this subset. Conversely, Northam trails among self-identified moderates, 20-23%, which gives the Lt. Governor clear growth opportunities.
On the Republican side, former national GOP party chairman Ed Gillespie is developing a commanding lead over Prince William County Board of Supervisors chair Corey Stewart and state Sen. Frank Wagner. According to the 349 self-identified Republicans and those Independents who say they lean toward the GOP, Mr. Gillespie jumps to a 38-11-10% advantage over Stewart and Wagner, respectively.
The overall sample skews more Democratic, which in this instance is good because it is becoming apparent that the more significant action is in the Dem primary. Christopher Newport did not release its general election ballot test data, but the sample skew suggests that the Democratic candidates will enjoy leads in the various candidate configurations likely sampled. 
House Opens - A Growing List
March 28, 2017
By: Jim Ellis
Coming to the end of just the first quarter of the off-election year, already 31 open US House seats could potentially be on the docket for the impending election cycle.  Of those, twelve are either in special election or the incumbent has announced his or her intention not to seek another term.
Five of the twelve are currently vacant, and, as we know, special elections have already been scheduled to replace resigned House members who have either accepted cabinet positions from President Trump or a state position (Xavier Becerra becoming Attorney General of California).  
The remaining seven, including Minnesota Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato) who yesterday announced that he will run for Governor next year, have either declared candidacies for another office or will retire.
In addition to Mr. Walz, three other Representatives have announced gubernatorial candidacies.  Reps. Michelle Grisham Lujan (D-NM), Jim Renacci (R-OH), and Kristi Noem (R-SD) have all publicly declared their intention to run for their respective state’s top political position.  
The three retirements come first from Reps. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) and Sam Johnson (R-TX).  Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) self-term limited himself when he first ran for office in 2012.  It appears that he will keep his pledge and not seek re-election next year.
The remaining nineteen members are reportedly considering running for other offices.  Some are more likely to make the statewide jump than others, but the following list comprises the known members, to date, who have publicly confirmed they are considering an alternative 2018 candidacy.
They are:
AL-1:  Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) – Governor – Likely to run
CO-7: Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) – Governor – Very likely to run
ID-1:   Raul Labrador (R-Eagle) – Governor - Possible
IN-4:   Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg) – US Senate - Possible
IN-6:   Luke Messer (R-Greensburg) – US Senate – Likely to run
KS-3:  Kevin Yoder (R-Overland Park) – Governor – Possible, but not likely
MI-5:   Dan Kildee (D-Flint) – Governor – Likely to run
MN-3:  Erik Paulsen (R-Eden Prairie) – Governor – Possible, but not likely
MN-6:  Tom Emmer (R-Delano) – Governor – Possible, but not likely
MN-8:  Rick Nolan (D-Crosby) – Governor – Possible
MO-2:  Ann Wagner (R-Ballwin) – US Senate – Leaning toward running
NV-4:   Ruben Kihuen (D-Las Vegas) – US Senate - Possible
NM-2:  Steve Pearce (R-Hobbs) – Governor – Possible, but now less likely
ND-AL: Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck) – US Senate - Possible
PA-7:   Pat Meehan (R-Chadds Ford) – Governor – Possible
TN-6:   Diane Black (R-Gallatin) – Governor – Likely to run
TX-16: Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) – US Senate – Likely to run
TX-20: Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) – US Senate – Possible, but not likely
WV-3:  Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington) – US Senate – Possible, but not likely
The impending special election schedule is as follows:
CA-34:  Xavier Becerra – CA Attorney General – April 4th jungle primary; June 6th special general if no candidate receives a majority in the first election.  With 23 candidates on the ballot, advancing to the secondary election is a virtual certainty.
GA-6:   Tom Price – HHS Secretary – April 18th jungle primary; June 20th special general if no candidate receives a majority in the first election.  With 18 candidates on the ballot, the secondary election is likewise a cinch.
KS-4:   Mike Pompeo – CIA Director – April 11th special general election – Candidates: State Treasurer Ron Estes (R) vs. Attorney James Thompson (D).
MT-AL:  Ryan Zinke – Interior Secretary – May 25th special general election – Candidates: Businessman Greg Gianforte (R) vs. Musician Rob Quist (D).
SC-5:   Mick Mulvaney – Director, Office of Management and Budget – May 4th partisan primaries; May 16th: the date for any necessary nomination run-off; June 20th special general election.
Another Questionable Poll
March 27, 2017
By: Jim Ellis
The Georgia special congressional election has already been polled rather extensively, but each survey has possessed methodological issues.  The latest Opinion Savvy (OS) survey (3/23-24; 462 pre-screened likely special election voters) appears to follow this same pattern.
The new OS data is unusual in that the individuals comprising the sample group were pre-screened before being selected from the Georgia registered voters list.  The pollsters’ are using the selection process to determine the likelihood of special election participation.  The polling directors do not provide in depth information about the pre-screening formula.  Opinion Savvy was rated a C- performer with a slight Democratic skew according to the most recent FiveThirtyEight analytics organization’s national polling report.
Unlike the previous polls completed for this special election contest, Opinion Savvy does list all of the candidates on their polling questionnaire.  The two Clout Research efforts provided only an abbreviated array of choices, and particularly helped Democrat Jon Ossoff because their first poll allowed only he as a Democratic option, while the second listed he and state Sen. Ron Slotin.  Eighteen candidates, including five Democrats, are in contention.
The Opinion Savvy survey also draws the conclusion that Mr. Ossoff leads the field at or around the 40% mark.  This could be an accurate depiction because this and the other polls are not so flawed as to make their conclusions unworthy of consideration. 
Ranking the candidate group behind Ossoff is where OS differs with their polling competitors.  Opinion Savvy sees former Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) pulling into a strong second place with 20% support doubling that of her closest Republican opponent, businessman and local city councilman Bob Gray.  Former state Senator Dan Moody (R), who is now beginning to advertise heavily, is in fourth position.  The other polls have found Handel and Gray in a virtual tie for second place with the additional candidates trailing by a relatively substantial margin. 
The Opinion Savvy survey is the only one that has begun to test various pairings for the secondary run-off election.  Georgia special election law places all participants on a jungle primary ballot – in this case, April 18th – and the top two finishers advance to the special general election.  For the GA-6 vacancy, the secondary run-off vote is scheduled for June 20th. 
According to OS, Ossoff is either tied, a little bit ahead, or just behind a Republican opponent in all tested situations.  Testing Ossoff against Ms. Handel, the two candidates who would today qualify for the run-off if the Opinion Savvy results are on target, Mr. Ossoff claims a 42-41% edge. 
Seeing the candidates battle in a too-close-to-call run-off is certainly possible.  Democrats are investing heavily in this special election because they believe the northern Atlanta suburban district has swung enough in their direction that they might be able to pull an upset victory in a low turnout special election.  But, the sampling group selection process and polling methodology is enough to question the results.
According to the pollsters’ analysis, “the survey was weighted for age, race, gender, and party identification using propensity scores.  Weighting benchmarks were determined using past voter turnout figures and internal projections.  For runoff questions, the weighting scheme was altered to reflect the likely voter demographic profile of runoff voters.”
Such a “weighting” of the responses in a two-way contest to reflect the demographics and voting preferences of the electorate based upon historical results, particularly when attempting to project special election voter turnout, may well lead to a flawed conclusion. 
In any event, the GA-6 election is clearly the hardest fought of the five special congressional elections currently underway.  A close finish is likely, and this race will clearly be attracting much more attention as we move closer to the April 18th and June 20th votes.  A Democratic upset would certainly give the party a needed boost as they begin to prepare for the midterms. 
Republicans holding the seat would obviously be a victory for President Trump and the party leadership.  Last week’s failed healthcare revamp initiative may begin to depress Republican turnout, unless the party leadership can instill greater confidence within the GOP base before the mid-April election vote. 
Mr. Trump carried this normally reliably Republican seat by only 1.5 percentage points in November.  It is this latter statistic that has engendered Democratic optimism for the special election contest.
New Apportionment Patterns
March 24, 2016
By: Jim Ellis
The Census Bureau released new population estimate data yesterday, and their information about the largest growth areas and places losing the most residents helps us project how the states will change in congressional representation.   With almost four years remaining until reapportionment occurs at the end of 2020 much can still change, but the current population shift patterns provide some early clues as to what may be the future state gain/loss formula.
According to the Bureau’s new estimates, Maricopa County (Arizona) ended 2016 as the nation’s largest growing local entity replacing Harris County (Texas), which had been in the first position for the last eight consecutive years.  The population estimates show that the Phoenix area gained 81,360 people from July 1, 2015 to the same date one year later.  The Houston area net resident total increased 56,587 during the same period.
The calculations analyze the natural increase (number of births outpacing the number of deaths), net domestic migration, meaning those who move from one part of America to another, and net international migration figures (those coming from other countries).  Maricopa County’s totals meant that an average of 222 new people came to or were born in the domain each and every day during the 2015-2016 yearly midpoints. 
The calculations estimate that a net 43,189 people moved to the Phoenix area during the period, 25,428 came from the natural increase, and 10,188 arrived from other countries.  Harris County surprisingly lost population in the net domestic migration category (down more than 16,000 people), yet still managed to end as the second fastest growth entity.  The area had a high natural increase of 46,412, and a net international migration of 27,922 individuals. 
Interestingly, in the last decade at a similar time, Maricopa County was also at the top of the growth list for the first three quarters of the ten-year period, but fell completely out of the population growth county during the last two years.  Therefore, the rebound back to the top largest growing county for this tested annual period suggests new robust economic growth patterns for the central Arizona region.
Earlier, the Grand Canyon State appeared to be only on the cusp of gaining another congressional district in the 2020 reapportionment formula estimate, but this latest data would almost certainly push them into the clear gainer category.  The pattern would continue what has occurred during the past 50 consecutive years, as Arizona has gained at least one seat since in every reapportionment since 1960, inclusive, and two from the 2000 formula.  The state currently has nine congressional seats and now seems poised to claim ten.
The Harris County growth was a major factor in Texas gaining four seats in the last apportionment.  Considering the Lone Star State possesses four of the largest growing ten American counties in this latest population estimate, Tarrant (Ft. Worth) at five, Bexar (San Antonio) at number seven, and Dallas County placing ninth, lends support to the projection that Texas will again gain multiple seats, and be the top gainer for the second consecutive decade.
Texas has added seats in every decade since 1860, with the exception of the 1940 census, and in ten of those apportionments gained more than one congressional district.
The fastest growing counties is another tested category.  Here, San Juan County, Utah, gained a net 7.56% population during the July 1, 2015 to July 1, 2016 period, which is tops in the nation.  Together, Utah and Texas possess 60% of the top ten fastest growing counties.  Iowa, Florida, Oregon, and Washington also have counties in the top ten fastest growing list.  The addition of Dallas County, Iowa, that includes the city of West Des Moines, is a surprise since its state actually lost a seat in the 2010 apportionment.
The three top fastest growing metropolitan areas are The Villages in Florida, Myrtle Beach/Conway/North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Bend/Redmond in Oregon.
Cook County, Illinois (Chicago) topped the biggest losing counties list, dropping more than 0.4% of its population.  This is due to more than 66,000 residents leaving the county.  Detroit’s Wayne County lost the second-most number of people, and Baltimore County, Maryland, was third.
As has been the case for the past five reapportionments, Illinois is projected to lose another seat in 2020.  Michigan has lost for three decades in a row, and will likely do so again.  Pennsylvania, losing seats in every decade since 1930, looks to do so once more at the end of this decade.
More Sunshine Polling
March 23, 2017
By: Jim Ellis
The Sunshine State of Florida may set an aggregate polling record if the current surveying pace continues.  Already we have seen four different pollsters test what may evolve into a US Senate political battle between incumbent Bill Nelson (D) and Gov. Rick Scott (R), including two new studies released just this week.
More telling than the sheer polling volume is seeing all four surveying entities detect virtually the same result.  That is, Sen. Nelson has a discernible lead, as one would expect from a three-term incumbent, but his advantage is small and he fails to top 50% in any of the publicized ballot tests.
Sen. Nelson was first elected to the House in 1978 after spending six years in the Florida legislature.  He served until running for Governor in 1990, losing the Democratic primary to former three-term Sen. Lawton Chiles, who would go onto unseat Gov. Bob Martinez (R) to win the statewide political position.  Mr. Nelson returned to win the office of Florida Treasurer, Insurance Commissioner, and Fire Marshal in 1994, and then was elected US Senator in 2000.  He will be 76 years old in November of 2018, and has said on numerous public occasions that he will run for a fourth term.
Gov. Scott came to politics after a career in the hospital industry, which led to him forming his own venture capital firm.  Politically, he seems to specialize in winning close upset elections.  He nipped then-Attorney General and former US Congressman Bill McCollum in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary with a three point margin of victory, and then defeated Florida CFO Alex Sink (D), 49-48%, in a contest that the latter was expected to win easily.  Despite poor job approval ratings, Gov. Scott was able to slip past former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) in his re-election campaign, in yet another one-point race (48-47%).
Several times, Gov. Scott has made statements indicating that he is seriously considering challenging Sen. Nelson next year, hence the early interest in polling the hypothetical campaign.
The polling turnstile began in February when the University of North Florida sampled 973 Florida respondents over a two-week period and found Sen. Nelson leading Gov. Scott, 44-38%, a six-point margin.  As also reported, Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, from their early March survey backed with superior methodological underpinnings than the UNF study, detected a similar split between the two men, 46-41%.
This week, two more pollsters released their own Florida data and again found similar and consistent results.  Cherry Communications, polling for the Florida Chamber of Commerce (3/6-14; 600 FL likely voters), saw a 48-42% Nelson lead, with St. Leo University (3/3-11; 507 FL adults from online panels designed to produce a purely random sample) reporting the two with a 39-34% division.

There is clearly enough consistent data to suggest that a Nelson-Scott Florida Senate race, should the Governor ultimately make the challenge, is a top-tier contest.  Mr. Scott has been plagued with poor approval ratings throughout his tenure as the state’s chief executive, but he overcame his weak standing to secure a close re-election victory in 2014.  Now, however, he is recording some of the better job approval scores during his entire time in office.  The same St. Leo University poll, for example, finds him with a 56:39% positive to negative ratio, which may be the strongest rating he’s ever posted. 
As we have seen in the past two decades, close races are nothing new for the Florida electorate and it has become the quintessential swing state.  For diverse pollsters to report such steady similar numbers at this early juncture suggests Gov. Scott will be a formidable challenger, and that Sen. Nelson is no lock for re-election.
It is becoming apparent that a Nelson-Scott campaign will attract a great deal of political attention from now all the way through the 2018 election period.