September 19, 2017
By: Jim Ellis
A brand new poll may be providing some last minute life for appointed Sen. Luther Strange as he continues to trail for the upcoming September 26th Republican run-off election.
Yesterday, we covered a Voter Surveys & Consulting firm poll that found the interim Senator behind former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore by only a single point, but the Senate Leadership Fund, major financial supporters of Mr. Strange, sponsored the poll. This brings their 41-40% results into question because all other recently published surveys give Judge Moore a comfortable, if not substantial, lead. Additionally, Voter Surveys did not release their supporting data.
JMC Analytics & Polling released their new data yesterday (9/16-17; 500 AL GOP run-off likely voters based upon previous primary participation; automated system) that provides much more in the way of tangible numerical information. According to JMC, Judge Moore’s advantage over Sen. Strange is 47-39% with 13% undecided, which represents a definitive swing toward the appointed incumbent. In their mid-August poll, the firm’s pollsters found Judge Moore leading 51-32%. Thus, the new tally means a net eleven-point swing in the Senator’s favor.
But, this poll also brings a new positive data point for Judge Moore. In pushing the 13% who say they are still undecided to make a choice as next Tuesday’s vote looms on the political horizon, the groups breaks 50-42% in the former jurist’s direction. Such a cut appears to blunt any surge that Sen. Strange may be developing. For Strange to build sustained momentum, that eight-point advantage among undecided needs to reverse.
In an important aside, President Trump’s spokespeople announced that the nation’s chief executive is traveling to Alabama this weekend to campaign for Sen. Strange. The President will participate in a Strange rally event in the state’s key swing area for this campaign: the Huntsville metropolitan region. Judge Moore received a boost here late last week when local Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville), the third place finisher in the August 15th special Senate primary, endorsed his former opponent. Both Strange and Moore have been running as close to President Trump as they can, so it is unclear how much of an effect the visit will produce.
JMC again published its geographical segmentation, which has changed somewhat since the last poll. Judge Moore is capitalizing on his Brooks endorsement and has opened up a strong 51-36% lead in the Huntsville region. Sen. Strange has gained significantly in the Birmingham area, and is now tied with Judge Moore at 45% apiece. The Senator still trails badly in Montgomery, 50-32%, and lags in Mobile by six percentage points.
The evangelical skew factor is apparently still present, and whether or not this religious segment’s composition is properly reflected could well be determinative in the coming actual vote. In the JMC poll, 66% of the respondents claim to be evangelical. This number could still be high, considering the statewide cumulative total is 49%, but it is more reasonable than some of the earlier surveys that posted an evangelical composition as high as 81 percent.
The evangelical vote, however, does appear to be highly significant regardless of its size because a stark contrast in voting preference exists when compared to non-evangelicals. Among the former, the JMC data breaks 57-36% in favor of Judge Moore. Almost exactly opposite, those self-identifying as non-evangelicals favor Sen. Strange in a 56-34% spread.
Therefore, it is becoming clear that evangelical turnout will be critical in determining final outcome. Judge Moore still has a major advantage, but if Sen. Strange can energize non-evangelicals and increase their turnout, then he has a glimmer of hope.
One Week Remaining
September 18, 2017
By: Jim Ellis
Entering the last full week of campaigning in the Alabama special Senate Republican run-off election, several happenings occurred in the past few days that are likely putting both candidates on edge.
As one might guess after so many polls found former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore leading appointed Sen. Luther Strange by double-digits, the Strange campaign would find a way to counter the preponderance of data.
Late last week, the Voter Surveys and Consulting firm released a new poll for the Senate Leadership Fund (9/9-10; 604 previous AL Republican primary voters) that finds the interim incumbent trailing Judge Moore by just one percentage point, 40-41%, vastly different from the spreads in most of the previously released surveys.
Often we have pointed to a potential flaw in the pro-Moore polling illustrating that the evangelical percentage represents too great a proportion of the respondent universe (between 68-81% in the previously published data) as compared to the statewide data as a whole. Since Judge Moore brandishes overwhelming strength within this group, it is reasonable to conclude that most of the pro-Moore polling results may be at least slightly skewed.
Though it is reasonable to presume that more evangelicals will vote in a Republican run-off than is represented in the statewide total (49% according to US Census Bureau figures), it is unlikely that it will go as high as posted in the aforementioned composition factor.
During the weekend, Huntsville US Rep. Mo Brooks, the third place finisher in the August 15th special Republican primary, decided to endorse one of his former opponents. Mr. Brooks' 5th Congressional District is a potential swing area in this particular run-off election, so the Congressman's endorsement could carry significant weight. Rep. Brooks posted a 41% mark here in the primary, winning his 5th CD against the other eight Republicans on the ballot including both Moore and Strange. In dominant Madison County (Huntsville), the Brooks percentage soared over the majority mark.
During the primary, Rep. Brooks and Sen. Strange essentially opposed each other because both were fighting for the one remaining run-off position since it became clear early that Judge Moore was going to place first. With Strange's establishment Republican supporters heavily opposing Brooks with several million dollars of negative media advertising, the Congressman now endorsing Judge Moore isn't particularly surprising. With Mr. Brooks facing two serious June 2018 congressional primary opponents, courting Moore's conservative political base makes even more sense because he can use the endorsement to augment his own electoral standing.
Finally, Judge Moore's campaign released a new ad (see attached link) that attempts to draw a clear contrast between he and Sen. Strange through an attack on the Senator's supporters. In this particular clip, Moore's wife acting as his spokesperson attacks the "Washington insiders," not depicted as one of the Democratic leaders but rather as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The latter man's associated Senate Leadership Fund organization is leading the attack against Moore, hence the push back.
Election Day is a week from tomorrow, September 26th. Irrespective of the Voter Surveys & Consulting poll results, it appears most likely that Judge Moore is the candidate headed for victory. With so little remaining, Sen. Strange will have a very difficult time reversing the current trends.
VA-10: Dems Helping Comstock?
September 15, 2017
By: Jim Ellis
Virginia is the most unique political state in the country when it comes to nominating political candidates. Party leaders and the incumbents themselves have great authority not only to schedule their nomination date, but also over what process will be used to determine a nominee.
At the congressional level, each district can independently decide upon its own nomination system irrespective of how the state and other CDs may operate. Therefore, some of the eleven districts may hold a direct primary, others a convention, and still others a “firehouse primary,” which is a hybrid between a convention and a direct primary.
In this latter option, voters visit a polling place, often times in a firehouse, but the number of sanctioned voting locations are few and far between thus forcing people to drive miles in order to participate. The entire system is designed for party leaders and incumbents to exact strict control, and their decisions more often than not keep rank and file voters away from directly choosing the eventual nominee.
Northern Virginia Democratic leaders are now contemplating what to do in the state’s 10th Congressional District where no less than nine candidates have already announced in hope of opposing second term Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-McLean) in the 2018 general election. The 10th District Democratic Committee met over the weekend for purposes of discussing their nomination options, hence the serious discussion of limiting voter participation to a district convention.
The large number of contenders appear to be causing problems for the party leadership especially when many of them, including US Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Fairfax) and Donald McEachin (D-Henrico), went out on a political limb to recruit state Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D-Loudon) into the race.
Now, with several serious candidates organizing effectively and Wexton under-performing on the fundraising circuit, the Loudon County state legislator is clearly pressuring party leaders to close the process. Undoubtedly, some of the promises made to entice Wexton into the congressional contest included paving the way for her nomination - pledges made before so many people came forward to run. Now, apparently she is insisting that her partisan mentors keep those promises.
Since many powerful party leaders, including Reps. Connolly and McEachin, were active in the Wexton recruitment process it will be in their personal interest to do whatever possible to ensure that she becomes the nominee if they hope to retain credibility to influence future elections.
Of the nine announced candidates, only five filed a campaign committee prior to the June 30th financial disclosure deadline. Looking at the reported funding levels, Ms. Wexton was only the fourth best fundraiser. Former state Department official Alison Friedman, Obama Administration Veterans Affairs appointee Lindsey Davis Stover, and businessman and Iraq War veteran Dan Helmer all raised more campaign funds than the inside favorite, Sen. Wexton. Only educator Deep Sran recorded weaker numbers.
With Wexton in early trouble, it is clear the party leaders’ best option is to schedule a convention so they can better control the process. This will undoubtedly cause all of the other candidates to feel wronged, which can only help Rep. Comstock increase her advantage toward re-election.
In many races across the country, Democratic candidates are lining up to run. In northern Virginia, however, the act of changing the nominating system away from a full participation primary and into a closed caucus may actually aid the very opponent they are all attempting to defeat.
The local party has an interesting decision to make in the next couple of months. In this situation, their action in what is normally a mundane process could have a profound effect upon how this important congressional campaign eventually resolves itself.
Shock Poll: Down 27
September 14, 2017
By: Jim Ellis
GBA Strategies, polling for the Democratic leadership’s Senate Majority PAC (8/30-9/7; 600 AZ likely general election voters; and 500 AZ Republican primary voters), just produced stunningly poor numbers for first-term Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake (R) from their new Grand Canyon State survey.
What makes matters even worse for the Senator is that the 27-point deficit referenced in the title is from the Republican primary voter sample segment. The GBA ballot test finds former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who held Sen. John McCain to a 51-40% re-nomination victory in 2016, leading Mr. Flake by an incredible 58-31% margin. While other polls have found Flake in difficult political shape within his own Republican Party base, almost exclusively attributable to his national public feud with President Trump, none have detected anything close to this spread.
On the other hand, GBA is a Democratic pollster and not known for testing a Republican primary sample. Therefore, doubt exists regarding this survey’s reliability because the pollsters may not have the necessary experience to understand the nuances within this particular voter segment. But, the margin is so large that few if any findings exist to conclude anything other than Flake is today likely trailing badly in the fledgling Republican primary contest.
The other results don’t give the Flake team much reason for optimism, either. Among Republicans, his personal favorability is a poor 25:56% while his job approval ratio is a slightly better, but still an abysmal 34:58% positive to negative. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is in even worse shape within the party base. Only 17% rate Sen. McConnell in a favorable light, with 42% of Republicans expressing disapproval of the national party leader. But, that is of little solace to Sen. Flake since Mr. McConnell doesn’t face the Arizona electorate.
Curiously, GBA apparently didn’t test President Trump within the voter base. Or, if they did, the numbers were not publicized within the polling prospectus. Either way, the lack of Trump data is a surprising development considering it is Sen. Flake’s relationship with the President that is causing the preponderance of his political base problems.
Among general election voters, Sen. Flake is in better position but still trails his only prospective Democratic rival purportedly tested. Paired with Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix), Sen. Flake would trail 40-47%.
Interestingly, Flake’s job approval rating before the electorate as a whole is actually better than within his own party. When adding Democrats and Independents to the sampling mix in order to compliment the Republicans, the Senator’s job approval index improves to 38:50% favorable to unfavorable.
Sen. Flake has a full year before the Republican primary (August 28, 2018) to rectify his position and make known his case to the base Republican electorate. He will certainly have much more in the way of resources to communicate than his current opponent. It remains to be seen, however, if this string of poor polling numbers encourages a stronger Republican to enter the race.
It is clear, however, that the Senator is going to need a public fence-mending with President Trump if he is to right his political ship. With former Trump advisor Steve Bannon now a political free agent again and rattling his sabre about spending heavily against anti-Trump Republicans largely through the Great America Alliance organization, it may behoove the Senator to move toward improving relations with the White House and doing so with urgency.