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.

May 23, 2017 — MT Special: The Healthcare Referendum
May 22, 2017 — Utah’s Lightning Speed; Norman Wins
May 19, 2017 — Conflicting VA Polls
May 18, 2017 — An Alabama Surprise
May 17, 2017 — Another Close One; Ohio Decision

MT Special: The Healthcare Referendum
May 23, 2017
By: Jim Ellis
We’re going to see either a quick validation or clear rejection of the Democrats’ healthcare strategy later this week.
Montanans head to the polls on Thursday, an unusual day for an election, to replace former Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish) who left the House to become US Interior Secretary.  Toward the end of this expensive campaign, Democratic candidate Rob Quist has been zeroing in on Republican nominee Greg Gianforte’s support of the recently House passed healthcare legislation, most specifically its sections relating to pre-existing conditions.
Whether the race turns on this specific issue remains to be seen, but Quist and the Democratic strategists are crafting the end of their campaign to make this congressional special election a referendum on the GOP’s proposed changes to the nation’s healthcare law.
Because the provisions will allow the states to change the pre-existing condition coverage requirement, Quist is using his own “botched surgery” as an example of the risks people with some type of health problem could face.  Quist doesn’t explain how his own surgical problem directly related to insurance – he doesn’t indicate that he was, or would be, denied future coverage because of this procedure, for example – but his point is to show how many people could easily fall into the category of having some pre-existing health problem that could preclude them from receiving future coverage.
Though this special electoral contest has not received as much national attention as the impending GA-6 race that will set a special election spending record between the two parties and features almost another month in campaign time, both Montana candidates and outside organizations will easily exceed $12 million in combined expenditures.
Quist has done very well on the national small dollar fundraising front, and is on course to reach $5 million in receipts before the race concludes this week.  Counting a sizable seven-figure personal contribution from Gianforte, his spending will likely equal his Democratic counterpart.  The outside expenditures, however, favor Gianforte by a ratio that could reach 5:1, since Democratic and liberal organizations have not been as bullish on this particular special election race, seemingly wanting to put “all of their eggs in one basket”, if you will, toward the Georgia special election effort.
Polling has been sparse for the Montana campaign, and the traditional survey numbers we have seen from only a few pollsters have all favored Gianforte.  Six polls were released into the public domain during the period between April 6th and yesterday, four from Gravis Marketing.  All find Gianforte’s margin lying between six and fifteen percentage points.
Yesterday’s data, an automated spot poll from Gravis (5/22; 818 MT likely special election voters) finds Gianforte holding a 49-35% advantage.  The lone Democratic public study came in late April from Garin Hart Yang Research (4/25-27; 601 MT likely special election voters) and gave the Republican a lesser 49-43% edge over Democrat Quist.
As in all elections, but especially ones that feature a lower participation rate, voter turnout will be the determining factor.  Both sides are working hard to deliver their votes in an at-large campaign that encompasses the fourth largest American state in terms of area but one that holds just the 44th largest population contingent.
A Democratic upset here would be politically earth shattering, but it appears unlikely to occur.  The Quist healthcare ad is attached. (Quist Healthcare Ad)
Utah’s Lightning Speed; Norman Wins
May 22, 2017
By: Jim Ellis
Gov. Gary Herbert (R) just scheduled the special election to replace resigning Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Alpine/Sandy), and the candidate filing deadline will occur even before the Congressman leaves office.
Mr. Chaffetz announced last week that he will resign from the House effective June 30th.  It was thought there would be a battle over the special election process because Utah election law sets no procedure parameters.  The state has not hosted a special federal election since 1930. 
Utah election law merely says that a special election will be scheduled in the event of a vacancy.  Some in the legislature are indicating that they need to be called into special session to determine the procedure, i.e., primary schedule, whether a nominating convention will be held, etc.
But, over the weekend, Gov. Herbert usurped such an idea and had Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox (R) publicly announce the special election schedule. 
Giving potential candidates almost no time to decide whether to run, the candidate filing deadline is already this Friday, May 26th.  Partisan primaries are scheduled for August 15th, with the general election on November 7th.  The action signals, obviously, that Herbert will not call the legislature back into session and leaves those disagreeing with the process only the option of filing a legal challenge.  It is an open question as to whether the political parties could schedule their own nominating conventions prior to the special primary, thus emulating the process the state employs during the regular election cycle.
The safe is safely Republican; in fact, Hillary Clinton failed to even come in second last November, trailing both Donald Trump and Independent Evan McMullin.  Therefore, all the early action is within the GOP. 
Four individuals have already announced their candidacies, all Republicans: state Senators Deidre Henderson and Margaret Dayton, along with state Reps. Brad Daw and Chris Herrod.  The latter man challenged Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) for re-nomination in 2012.  Provo Mayor John Curtis is a potential candidate, as is Tanner Ainge, son of Boston Celtics basketball club president and former Brigham Young University star Danny Ainge. 
Mr. McMullin, who was a late entry in the presidential race trying in vain to derail Mr. Trump’s campaign, is also a possible candidate.  He would likely draw personal strong opposition if he chooses to run as a Republican or an Independent.
The field may winnow down especially if the state GOP does not schedule a nominating convention.  The petition signature requirement to qualify for the ballot is daunting: 7,000 valid party member signatures to be submitted by June 12th.  This is no easy task for any campaign just now forming.
Gov. Herbert’s quick action means we will see a great deal of activity during the next couple of weeks, and then in the months to follow.  The eventual Republican nominee will become a prohibitive favorite to win the November 7th special general election.
Continuing the fast action theme, South Carolina election officials have already completed the mandated recount for the May 16th special Republican run-off election.  The original count found former state Representative and 2006 congressional nominee Ralph Norman outpacing state House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope by just 221 votes.  The two finished only 135 votes apart in the May 2nd special primary election.
Surprisingly, the recount produced no change in the final totals, and Norman’s 221-vote victory remains in tact.  The totals will become official since Mr. Pope has conceded the race and endorsed Norman.  Therefore, the certification process will begin, and we now proceed to the special general election on June 20th.
Mr. Norman will face former Wall Street executive Archie Parnell (D) in the special general.  The new Republican nominee becomes the prohibitive favorite in this campaign, one in which national Democratic Party leaders have so far paid scant attention.
Continuing the fast action theme, South Carolina election officials have already completed the mandated recount for the May 16th special Republican run-off election.  The original count found former state Representative and 2006 congressional nominee Ralph Norman outpacing state House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope by just 221 votes.  The two finished only 135 votes apart in the May 2nd special primary election.
Surprisingly, the recount produced no change in the final totals, and Norman’s 221-vote victory remains in tact.  The totals will become official since Mr. Pope has conceded the race and endorsed Norman.  Therefore, the certification process will begin, and we now proceed to the special general election on June 20th.
Mr. Norman will face former Wall Street executive Archie Parnell (D) in the special general.  The new Republican nominee becomes the prohibitive favorite in this campaign, one in which national Democratic Party leaders have so far paid scant attention.
Conflicting VA Polls
May 19, 2017
By: Jim Ellis
Early in this election cycle we’ve already seen several special and odd-numbered year campaigns produce conflicting polling data, and yesterday a new example came forth.  Two new polls from the Virginia Governor’s race, Democratic primary, produced opposite results and both can be questioned in reliability terms.
Earlier in the week, the Virginia Education Association released a Public Policy Polling survey (5/9-10; 745 VA likely Democratic primary voters) that projects Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam leading former US Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Charlottesville) by a substantial 45-35% margin. 
Yesterday, the Washington Post and the Schar School of George Mason University released their sponsored Abt Associates poll (5/9-14; 1,604 VA adults; 351 likely Democratic primary voters; 264 likely Republican primary voters) that produced a much different result.  According to this polling sample, it is Mr. Perriello who actually holds a 40-38% preference lead among the most likely June 13th Democratic primary voters.
Not only do we see inconsistent conclusions from this pair of surveys, but also methodological questions arise.  The Public Policy Polling survey has the stronger sampling group particulars, but may have bias problems.  PPP features a robust sample of 745 Democratic primary voter respondents but the poll was conducted for an organization that is outwardly supporting Mr. Northam, and the ten-point advantage for their candidate is beyond any previously released independent figures.
The Washington Post Abt survey is methodologically flawed.  The 1,604 respondent pool is obviously a good size, but the individuals are identified as “adults.”  When attempting to determine registered and likely primary voters, the total sample shrinks considerably.  Finding only 351 Democratic primary voters and 264 similar Republican participants shows the high number of non-voters included in the original universe. 
To put the sample size in perspective, the 351 Democratic primary voters may qualify as an adequate sample for a congressional district poll, but not in a state with eleven CDs.  The Republican sample is even low for a congressional contest, let alone a statewide campaign.  Therefore, the Post/Schar poll has an unacceptably high error factor.
Comparing all available data, it does appear that the Northam-Perriello primary is highly competitive and likely to end in a close result.  More importantly, it defines what many other Democratic primaries will look like across the nation as the Bernie Sanders activist faction continues to oppose the Democratic establishment.
Witnessing both Sens. Sanders and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) publicly endorsing Perriello, while establishment officeholders such as Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine back Northam along with traditional Democratic support organizations such as the Virginia Education Association, we see similar divisions to those formulated in the Clinton-Sanders 2016 presidential primary. 
The remaining question is will the two candidates stretch so far to the left in attempting to clinch the nomination, and particularly so in vote-rich northern Virginia, that they cede the middle ground for the general election.
For his part, former Republican National Committee chairman and 2014 US Senate candidate Ed Gillespie, at this point the presumed GOP gubernatorial nominee, understands the dynamic and is navigating more toward the ideological center for what he anticipates being a close general election campaign.  In many ways, this Virginia gubernatorial race could prove a precursor for the myriad of partisan coming campaigns soon to be contested during this active mid-term election cycle.
An Alabama Surprise
May 18, 2017
By: Jim Ellis
Filing closed yesterday for the Alabama special Senate election, and events didn’t unfold as expected.  Instead of having more candidates opposing appointed Sen. Luther Strange in the special Republican primary we actually see fewer.
Three individuals expected to file formal candidate declaration statements, including an announced candidate and one who had filed an exploratory committee - and both of those were viewed as active candidates until yesterday - chose not to run. 
State Senate President Del Marsh (R-Anniston) was an Alabama politico thought to be a sure US Senate candidate.  About ten days ago he said a decision had been reached about the statewide special election, but wouldn’t be announced until later.  As filing closed, Sen. Marsh chose to remain on the political sidelines.  He still expresses interest in the Governor’s race, but says he would “probably” support Gov. Kay Ivey (R) if she decides to run.
State Rep. Ed Henry (R-Decatur), who led the drive in the state House to impeach resigned Gov. Robert Bentley (R) and was one of the first individuals to announce his Senate candidacy, also decided not to formally file. 
Former state Rep. Perry O. Hooper Jr., who spent 19 years in the state House of Representatives and formed a US Senate exploratory committee soon after the special election was called, too, chose not to become a candidate. 
Therefore, the only late entry was US Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville), who announced for the Senate on Monday.  The Brooks entry was particularly crushing for Henry since they both hail from the same part of the state, and may have been at least part of the reason the latter decided to reverse course.
With the field set, Sen. Strange now finds himself facing a much different group of opponents than he originally must have expected.  He certainly sees a smaller contingent of serious candidates: Brooks, former state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, and resigned Alabama Christian Coalition president Randy Brinson, which may play to his benefit.
The Senator’s clear advantage is that all of his three major opponents – seven minor Republicans also filed – come from the far right of the ideological spectrum.  Often times in modern day primaries this is an asset, but, in this instance, too many contenders are drawing upon the same voter segment.  Such a division should help Sen. Strange secure a position for a run-off, but whether or not he can score an outright win in the August 15th primary is difficult to predict at this early juncture.
One person the new candidate configuration could help is Congressman Brooks.  His goal is to convince the anti-Strange Republican voters, particularly those who may feel the Senator’s appointment from the scandal-tarred Gov. Bentley was tainted, to coalesce around his own candidacy.  Rep. Brooks may be able to develop sufficient support not only to deny Strange an outright victory, but also qualify against him for a September 26th run-off.  In this scenario, since Strange would have fallen short of majority support within the party, the interim Senator would be vulnerable facing one challenger in a run-off setting.
Of course, the other two credible candidates could arguably be in the same position as Brooks, particularly former Supreme Court Justice Moore.  The ex-Justice has high name identification, but being twice removed from the bench could cause many conservative voters, particularly those having qualms about Bentley’s appointment of Strange, to gravitate around Brooks as the “cleaner” choice.
All things considered, these most recent developments should favor Sen. Strange.  He now appears to be in a stronger position to secure the party nomination, possibly in outright fashion.  Because of Alabama’s strong Republican voting history, the eventual GOP nominee will have the inside track for the special December general election likely opposite former US Attorney Doug Jones (D). 
Winning this special election will mean serving the remaining three years of the current term and next facing the voters in the 2020 election, when this seat again comes in-cycle.
Another Close One; Ohio Decision
May 17, 2017
By: Jim Ellis
Last night’s special Republican run-off election ended in almost as close a fashion as did the primary, two weeks ago.  Former state Representative and 2006 congressional nominee Ralph Norman has scored an apparent 203-vote victory over state House President Pro Tempore Tommy Pope.  In the original May 2nd vote, Pope nipped Norman by 135 cast ballots.  Since no one was close to the majority mark, the secondary run-off election was thus necessitated. 
The totals are unofficial.  Hence, a recount will likely be ordered, and it is not clear whether any absentee, provisional, or disputed ballots remain uncounted.  Assuming the Norman margin holds, he will face Democrat Archie Parnell, a former Wall Street executive and congressional aide, in the special general vote scheduled for June 20th.  The winner of that election serves the balance of the current congressional term.  The seat is vacant because former Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-Lancaster/Rock Hill) resigned to become director of President Trump’s Office of Management & Budget.
In the primary, the two candidates not only spilt the district, but they virtually halved their joint home county of York, the dominant population center.  Such was not the case tonight, as Pope carried the entity, where 54% of the entire district’s ballots were cast, by a 1,414-vote margin, substantially better than his 187 ballot spread in the primary. 
Despite Pope’s improvement in the anchor county, and especially when York considerably exceeded it’s share of the district vote (54% of last night’s votes came from York County even though it contains only 34% of the CD’s population), it was not enough to overcome Norman’s strength in the rest of the district.  Of the eleven counties, Norman carried nine, thus enabling him to close his deficit from York County and barely nip Pope when all of the votes were counted.
The biggest question coming from last night’s election is just how long will it take to finally declare an official winner.  Are there overseas votes coming from military voters, and how much of a fight will the Pope team wage in an attempt to overturn the final outcome?  Considering the next election is June 20th, the party leaders do not have an abundance of time to reach final conclusions.
In another interesting twist about the Palmetto State nomination process, it will be the state party executive committee that assumes the arbiter position for this contest and not the South Carolina Election Commission.  State election law dictates that the political parties govern their own nomination systems.
Columbus area Rep. Pat Tiberi announced that he will not join the US Senate contest next year, bypassing the opportunity of squaring off with state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) for the right to face Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) in the general election.
The Congressman indicated that he could not fully concentrate on a Senate campaign with the tax reform legislation and healthcare reform package passing through the Ways & Means Committee of which he is a key member. 
Already, Mr. Tiberi had amassed more than $6 million in his campaign account, more than both Sen. Brown and state Treasurer Mandel have attracted.  Thus, the early signals pointed to him moving toward the Senate race.
Without Rep. Tiberi in the statewide contest, Mr. Mandel should have a clear path to the nomination, a post he also attained in 2012 when he went onto lose to Sen. Brown in a 51-45% final result.  Considering that President Obama was on the same ballot, carrying the state, and driving turnout, Mr. Mandel’s performance proved respectable.
It is likely we will see the Brown-Mandel rematch in 2018, and this promises to lead to a highly competitive political campaign.
SC Run-off Today; Brooks In
May 16, 2017
By: Jim Ellis

North-central Palmetto State Republican voters visit the polls today to choose a special election congressional nominee.  For all intents and purposes, the evening’s result will likely determine former Rep. Mick Mulvaney’s (R-Lancaster/ Rock Hill) replacement.  While there will be a special general election on June 20th against Democratic nominee Archie Parnell, the seat’s Republican nature makes the eventual GOP standard bearer the prohibitive favorite.
The participants are state House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope and former state Representative and 2006 congressional nominee Ralph Norman.  As we remember, the original May 2nd primary yielded the pair topping the field of seven Republican candidates in a virtual tie.  Rep. Pope edged Mr. Norman by just 135 ballots.  In their common home county of York, the district’s population anchor (more than 1/3 of the district’s people reside here even though there are ten additional counties that comprise the 5th CD), Pope’s margin was only 187 votes meaning Norman topped him by a whopping 52 votes in the remainder of the district. 
Both men only raised about $300,000 for the primary election, though Norman loaned his campaign an additional $300,000 giving him the financial advantage.  The amount was surprisingly low for Pope, who holds the number two position in the state House and could well ascend to the Speakership if he fails to win the congressional seat.
Though we see no run-off financial disclosure because the contest is held within a short two-week cycle, field reports suggest that the Norman campaign will again have the resource advantage.  Both men have attracted outside media support, however.  The Club for Growth backs Norman, while the US Chamber of Commerce is running ads on Pope’s behalf. 
The only poll taken during the run-off, from the Trafalgar Group, finds the two separated by less than a percentage point, just as they were in the actual primary vote.  Today’s contest is a pure toss-up.
Candidate filing closes tomorrow for the special US Senate election, and the Republican field grew in stature yesterday.  US Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) entered the race, the first House member to do so even though none have to risk their current position to join this particular statewide contest.
All the action is on the Republican side for the August 15th special primary.  Appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) will face Rep. Brooks, former state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, state Rep. Ed Henry (R-Decatur), former state Rep. Perry O. Hooper Jr. (R-Montgomery), and ex-Alabama Christian Coalition president Randy Brinson.  State Senate President Del Marsh (R-Anniston) is also expected to announce his candidacy. 
The lone major Democrat is former US Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, which includes the major population centers of Birmingham and Huntsville, Doug Jones who announced his candidacy last week.  He will likely advance to the December 12th special general election without going through a run-off.
The Republican challenger strategy will be to force Strange into a September 26th run-off, and hope to unseat him in a one-on-one contest.  Rep. Brooks, who represents the northern-most Alabama congressional district encompassing Madison County (Huntsville), the state’s third largest population entity, would seemingly have the best early chance of qualifying for the secondary election.
Should state Senate President Marsh enter, he could be a wild card.  Originally elected in 1998 and chosen as President of the body in 2011, Mr. Marsh is a powerful figure in Montgomery, but likely little known outside of the capital city and his Anniston anchored state Senate district that occupies a portion of the region between Birmingham and the Georgia border. 
Beginning Thursday morning, this special election contest will be well underway.