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.

December 5, 2017 — Scot Gaining Momentum; IL Filing Closes

December 4, 2017 — More on Moore

December 1, 2017 — Barton to Retire; Major Ohio Move

November 30, 2017 — Conyers Will Go; More From Illinois

November 29, 2017 — Confirming Data

Scott Gaining Momentum; IL Filing Closes
December 5, 2017
By: Jim Ellis
In what should be a premier Senate race next year, the Florida political contest that will likely develop between Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Gov. Rick Scott (R) has not yet drawn a great deal of national media coverage, but that will certainly change over time.
A new St. Leo University poll (11/19-24; 500 FL residents) finds Gov. Scott opening up a sizable lead over the three-term Democratic incumbent, 42-32%.  The results definitely detect a swing toward the term-limited Republican Governor, but previous polling conducted since September 10th foresees a much closer skirmish. 
Two polls from September, St. Leo University (9/10-15; 500 FL residents) and the Florida Chamber of Commerce (9/17-24; 615 FL likely voters), both projected Gov. Scott to be holding a two-point lead over Sen. Nelson, 35-33% and 47-45%, respectively.  The University of North Florida (10/11-17; 834 FL voters), however, gave the incumbent a scant 38-37% edge in mid-October, while Mason-Dixon Polling & Research (10/17-19; 625 FL voters) cast the two prospective candidates as tied with 44% preference.
Gov. Scott is not yet an official Senate candidate, but little doubt remains that he will become one.  The Governor indicates he is in no hurry to announce and will not do so until well into next year.  In the meantime, however, a political action committee under his supporters’ control has been active in sponsoring a multi-million dollar media blitz to rally popular support for the Governor’s state agenda. 
The new St. Leo University poll only surveys 500 “residents” and does so from what they say is a “sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups.”  It remains to be seen if their new methodological survey approach will yield the accuracy ratings to make St. Leo a consistent reliable Florida pollster.
The Illinois candidate filing deadline expired yesterday, and 77 Democrats, Republicans, and Independents filed as challengers or open seat contenders in the state’s 18 congressional races.  There is no Senate race in the Land of Lincoln next year, and only one House incumbent, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago), is retiring.
All of the current federal office holders seeking another term are early favorites for re-election, but eight of the 17 returning House members do face primary opposition.  Though most of the challengers don’t appear as early threats at first glance, the one that likely will attract some primary news coverage is liberal activist Marie Newman, a marketing consultant, who is taking on seven-term incumbent Dan Lipinski (D-Western Springs/ Chicago suburbs) in the state’s 3rd Congressional District.  Rep. Lipinski is one of the more moderate Democratic members in the party conference, so this contest will assume ideological overtones. 
In the open 4th District, though Rep. Gutierrez waited until very late in the filing cycle to announce he wasn’t running in an attempt to pave the way for Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D), the ploy didn’t prevent six other Democratic candidates from running, including Chicago Aldermen Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, Joe Moreno, and Raymond Lopez.  The 4th District is 70% Hispanic and will be decided in the March 20th Democratic plurality primary.
It will be interesting to see if any of the challenger favorites from both parties stumble in the early primary.  Some of the key seats to watch on March 20th include the 6th District where incumbent Republican Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton) sees seven Democrats lining up to battle for their party nomination, the 12th CD where recruited challenger Brendan Kelly, the St. Clair County State’s Attorney, must now defeat two Democratic opponents before winning the right to challenge Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro/Carbondale), and the 17th, where wealthy businessman Mark Kleine (R) could become a surprisingly tough opponent for incumbent Rep. Cherie Bustos (D-Moline).
More on Moore
December 4, 2017
By: Jim Ellis
Several new developments have occurred in the Alabama special Senate election, now just over one week from culmination.  Two new polls, from the Washington Post/Schnar School and CBS News/YouGov, have been released, and the campaigns’ latest financial disclosure numbers are now public.
Prior to this weekend, the last six public polls all showed former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) regaining a small lead over ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D).  Now, the Post/Schnar poll (11/27-30; 1,304 adults; 1,110 self-identified AL registered voters; 739 self-identified AL likely voters) reverses the trend (Jones up, 50-47%), but a further examination of the respondent universe suggests that this survey is likely within the same realm as the others. 
Conversely, the CBS News/YouGov data (11/28-12/1; 1,067 AL registered voters, 68% of whom say they will “definitely” vote in the special Senate election) finds a much different result over virtually the same time period.  According to CBS/YouGov, Judge Moore retains a 49-43% edge, with 71% of Republicans saying they believe the sexual impropriety allegations against the former state Supreme Court Chief Justice are false.
Therefore, it appears this campaign is at least toss-up or, more likely, one that is slightly leaning Moore’s way as we head into the December 12th election day.  The winner will serve the balance of the current term, which goes through 2020.  The new Senator will be eligible to seek a full six-year term in that particular regular election.
Though the Post poll projects Mr. Jones to a 50-47% lead, the polling sample appears to under-sample Republicans.  In a state where the GOP has dominated since the 1994 election, inclusive, and a place where they control the Governor’s office, all statewide elected positions, the congressional delegation (6R-1D), and both houses of the legislature by large margins, it appears that a 38R-31D% self-identifying party division is light. 
In comparison, the CBS/YouGov survey discerns a partisan division of 51R-36D, which appears to be more in line with recent Alabama voting history. 
Since the Yellowhammer State does not register voters by political parties, it is difficult to capture the exact number of individuals affiliating with either national political entity.  Therefore, the actual voter turnout figures during this special Senate cycle perhaps provides clearer substantiating evidence than a self-identification poll. 
In the special Senate Republican primary (August 15th), 423,282 individuals cast their ballot.  This compares to just 165,006 people who did likewise in the Democratic primary.  For the Republican run-off (September 26th) between Judge Moore and appointed Sen. Luther Strange, even more people voted.  In that contest, 481,186 individuals cast their ballot in the GOP run-off.  Therefore, a 4:1 actual voting edge suggests that a straight party division spread would favor Republicans to a much greater degree than 38-31%, and aligns much better with the CBS/YouGov findings.
As expected, Mr. Jones has a major lead in financial resources, and is maximizing that advantage.  Within the period from October 1 – November 22, the Democratic nominee raised almost $10.2 million as compared to Judge Moore’s $1.77 million.  He held a cash-on-hand advantage of $2.5 million to $640,000 heading into the campaign’s final two weeks. 
Though Mr. Jones has dominated the airwaves and now launched a new attack against Moore reiterating the Judge’s previously stated position that women should not serve in elected office, the polling numbers have, nevertheless, reverted back Moore’s way.
As in most special elections, this battle will come down to the voter participation factor, and which side can best get their voters to the polls on December 12th.  At this point, Moore’ voting pool appears larger and more committed, but the situation can still change as we enter this final full week of campaigning. 
Rep. Barton to Retire; Major Ohio Move
December 1, 2017
By: Jim Ellis
Veteran Texas Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis), a former Energy & Commerce Committee chairman, has apparently taken the advice he was reportedly receiving from many local Republican leaders and activists advising him not to seek re-election.  Mr. Barton, recently coming under attack when his nude picture taken during a previous consensual sexual relationship surfaced on Twitter, announced yesterday through social media that he will end his 34-year congressional career when the current Congress adjourns. 
Mr. Barton had already filed to run in 2018, but will now withdraw his paperwork prior to Texas’ December 11th candidate filing deadline.  We expect to see several Republicans come forward to run in what will be the first open 6th District contest since 1984. Immediately, Tarrant County Tax Assessor Ron Wright announced that he would enter the newly open Republican primary.
The 6th District performs as a safe Republican seat beginning in the Arlington area of Tarrant County, which is the population anchor, before continuing southeast to annex Ellis and Navarro Counties.  President Trump carried the 6th, 54-42%, down a bit from Mitt Romney’s 2012 performance of 58-41% against President Obama.
Five Democrats previously announced their candidacies, but none are viewed as particularly viable.  Now that the seat is open, more prominent party leaders may come forward to run, but the electorate here is a virtual lock to continue performing as a safe Republican seat.
Mr. Barton now becomes the 39th Representative to bypass their next re-election, and the 26th Republican.  Of Texas’ 36 congressional seats, seven will be open in 2018, six from Republican districts in addition to one West Texas Democratic CD. 
Major developments occurred in the important open Ohio Governor’s race yesterday. 
The top two Republican candidates, in terms of polling and fundraising, joined forces in an announcement to form a unified party ticket.  Attorney General and former US Senator Mike DeWine will lead the new team with Secretary of State and former state House Speaker Jon Husted dropping his own gubernatorial campaign in order to join the proposed ticket as the Lt. Governor candidate. 
Later in the day, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, whose campaign for the Governor’s nomination has begun slowly, announced that she will continue her effort.  Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) also remains in the race, and a spokesman said the Congressman is energized by the DeWine-Husted unification.  According to the post-announcement campaign interview, Mr. Renacci believes he will now have open field running to cast himself as the conservative outsider against the Republican establishment.
Meanwhile on the Democratic side, former Consumer Protection Financial Bureau director and ex-Ohio Attorney General and Treasurer Richard Cordray is expected to make a formal announcement next week to join the Democratic gubernatorial nomination campaign. 
If Cordray is successful in topping the current primary field, which includes former US Rep. Betty Sutton, Dayton Mayor Nan Whatley, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni (D-Mahoning County), and ex-state Rep. Connie Pillich, and the DeWine-Husted ticket is nominated for the GOP, the 2018 Governor’s race would be a rerun of the 2010 Attorney General’s contest.  In that tight political battle, DeWine ousted then-incumbent Cordray, 47.5 – 46.3%. 
The Ohio Governor’s race features high political stakes because of the redistricting importance the state carries.  With a congressional delegation margin of 12-4 Republican, the GOP needs a strong Ohio map to continue as one of the key anchors to their national majority.  With the state almost sure to lose at least one seat in reapportionment, the 2021 redistricting map becomes all the more critical.  The Governor elected next year will possess the redistricting veto pen over the new maps.
Much national attention will be paid to this open Governor’s race, and yesterday’s announcement made things all the more interesting.  Incumbent John Kasich (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.
Conyers Will Go; More From Illinois
November 30, 2017
By: Jim Ellis
Succumbing to pressure from highly publicized sexual harassment allegations, Michigan Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) announced last night that he will not seek re-election next year. 
Mr. Conyers, the Dean of the House and the last member of either congressional chamber originally elected in the 1960s, will retire after serving what will be 54 years as a US Representative.  Assuming Rep. Conyers completes the current term, he will serve longer in the House than all but one member in American history: fellow Detroit area former Congressman John Dingell (D-Dearborn) who was elected to 30 terms, spending just over 59 years in office. 
Michigan’s 13th District splits downtown Detroit with the adjacent 14th CD, before encompassing the River Rouge, Midtown, Brightmoor, and Westland communities, prior to annexing the Romulus area that includes the Detroit Metropolitan Airport.  The 13th is solidly Democratic (Clinton: 78.8%; Obama ’12: 85.2%) and its population is 55% African American.  Rep. Conyers has averaged 79.8% of the vote in the current district configuration, though only tallied 61% in the 2016 Democratic primary turning back a challenge from Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey. 
We can expect a crowded Democratic primary in a seat that hasn’t been open for more than five decades.  The Conyers retirement announcement allows plenty of time for potential candidates to make their decisions.  The Michigan candidate filing deadline isn’t until April 24th, in preparation for the August 7th partisan primary.  The eventual Democratic nominee will capture the seat next November.
With Conyers departing for the 2018 election, the national cycle will feature 38 open House seats, 25 in Republican districts and now 13 with departing Democratic incumbents.  One, in Pennsylvania’s 18th District, will be decided in a March 13th special election to replace resigned Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh).
A day after Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago) announced he would not seek a 14th term in the House, the Congressman is already reportedly exploring his next political move.  Speculation is increasing that he may now enter the 2020 presidential election running on an immigration reform platform, emphasizing allowing more individuals to come to the United States and granting a path to citizenship for those who are in the country illegally.
But, it’s possible that Mr. Gutierrez may not be the only member of the Chicago congressional delegation to retire.  Though candidate filing expires on December 4th, veteran Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Chicago) has yet to submit his re-election documents.  Curiously, the Congressman’s son, Flynn Rush, who earlier said he would run for a Chicago state House seat, has also not filed.  This is increasing speculation that Rep. Rush may not seek a 14th term and will announce his retirement so late as to allow his son to enter the congressional race and face less opposition because others would run short of time to comply with Illinois ballot petition requirements.
Since the filing deadline is Monday, something will have to happen here in the next day or two.
Illinois’ 1st District encompasses most of South Chicago, before moving southwest, around and well past the city of Joliet.  The population is exactly 50% African American and generally votes in the mid-70s for Democratic candidates.  Rep. Rush has not been seriously challenged since he defeated then-state Sen. Barack Obama, who challenged him for re-nomination in the 2000 election.  Rep. Rush defeated Obama 59-30% to secure the Democratic primary in that political contest 18 years ago, and of course before the future President would become a national figure. 
Confirming Data
November 29, 2017
By: Jim Ellis
As we reported last week, two polls, from WT&S Consulting (11/18-20; 11,641 AL registered voters; Moore 46-40%) and Strategy Research for the Raycom News Network (11/20; 3,000 AL likely special election voters; Moore 47-45%) first detected a swing back toward embattled Republican US Senate nominee Roy Moore in his special election contest with former US Attorney Doug Jones (D).  Now another new survey, and one that is perhaps more significant, confirms the Moore advantage.
The Change Research firm, a San Francisco company that claims it brings a “Silicon Valley approach to polling,” has just reported new survey numbers, and for the third time in the Moore-Jones race. In mid-November (11/9-11), CR found Judge Moore holding a 44-40% advantage just as the sexual impropriety scandal was beginning to become public knowledge. Later, from their November 15-16 poll, they saw the electorate sway to a 46-43% edge for Democrat Jones. 
Yesterday, the firm released its 11/26-27 polling result (1,868 AL self-identified registered voters) and, confirming what WT&S and Strategy Research found, sees Judge Moore rebounding into the lead, 49-44%. 
The swing to Moore is significant for several reasons. First, as the Politico publication reported, Jones and the Democrats are outspending Moore by a 7:1 margin in advertising, already running or reserving $5.6 million in media and digital advertising time versus only $800,000 for the Republican. But, assuming the consistent results from the three recent aforementioned polls are accurate, it appears either the Jones ad barrage is having no effect at best for the Democratic campaign, or worst, the piling on Moore is backfiring and leading to the opposite result.
Mr. Jones and his outside supporters have run a two-pronged media approach: direct attack ads on Moore and his current sexual impropriety scandal, while contrasting that message with a second theme that tries to distance Jones from the national Democrats, who are unpopular in Alabama, and cast him in a more bipartisan light. If the Jones internal data, which has not been released but undoubtedly exists, shows a similar pattern to these latest three polls, then we can expect a rapid strategy change because the current approach is obviously not expanding their candidate’s base of support.
The Change Research series is likely most significant because a constant pollster using a consistent sample selection methodology is generally believed to be a good tracking barometer. Their first data, showing Moore’s previous double-digit lead shrinking to small single-digits just as the scandal was breaking, is in line with other available data during the equivalent time period.  Change also found Jones moving into the lead as the Moore scandal began to develop legs, as did other pollsters, and now they see voters beginning to “come home” as the campaign progresses and the scandal becomes less sensationalized. 
The biggest reason for the return to more normal Alabama voting patterns centers on whether people believe the allegations, and here we see definitive partisan divisions. In what are good news findings for Moore, his margin among previous Moore voters has returned to a 93-5% split; appointed Sen. Luther Strange primary voters now back the GOP nominee in a 53-30% clip; and “other” Republican primary voters favor him 53-29%. Democrats are virtually unanimous in their support of Jones, but they are badly outnumbered in the electorate as a whole. For example, in the Senate Republican run-off more than 493,000 people voted versus just 165,006 individuals who chose to cast a Democratic primary ballot.
Additionally, the major publicity about other sexual assault scandals from people in Democratic politics, e.g., Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the media, and Hollywood have likely desensitized the electorate even further, thus lessening the impact of the accusations against Moore.
But, perhaps the most significant piece of information contained in the latest Change Research survey comes from them detecting a six percentage point increase among those who self-identify as Trump voters “definitely planning to vote.” Now, 88% of Trump voters say they are definitely planning to cast a ballot in the special Senate election, up from 82% found in the previous CR surveys.
Despite Doug Jones’ huge resource advantage that has financed barraging the airwaves with ads, the electorate appears to be turning back toward Moore. It will be interesting to see what moves the Democrats make in the closing days as they attempt to retrieve Jones’ earlier momentum, understanding that any chance at wresting the Senate majority away from Republicans begins with a mandatory victory in this Alabama special election.
Another Retirement - Maybe
November 28, 2017
By: Jim Ellis
Two years ago, US Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago) announced that he would not seek re-election, only to eventually turn around and file for another term.  On Monday, Mr. Gutierrez filed paperwork to secure a ballot spot, according to a Chicago Tribune report, but today is now expected to again reverse course and retire for the second time.  Once this Congress adjourns, he will complete 13 full terms in the House.
This could be an example of Chicago machine politics at its best, however.  Gutierrez announcing that he won’t run just a week before the December 4th candidate filing deadline after giving every indication he would seek re-election, could be setting up a designated successor.  Already, Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D) is reportedly circulating petitions to gather signatures for congressional race qualification.  We can expect a great deal of political scrambling in the next day or two, since prospective candidates have little time to decide about their individual run for Congress, and then build and command enough of a political organization to meet the ballot qualification requirements.
Illinois’ 4th District is heavily Democratic (Clinton 82.1%; Obama ’12: 80.9%), so all of the political action will be settled in the March 20th party primary.  The seat is 70.1% Hispanic, and the state’s only Hispanic majority district. 
The gerrymandered seat ignited controversy when the Democratic legislature first drew it in 2011.  The IL-4 configuration appears as a giant letter “C” that covers communities north and south of downtown Chicago, beginning at Lake Michigan and moving west toward the merger of Interstates 290 and 294 near Elmhurst.  The CD houses the Chicago communities of Avondale, Logan Square, Belmont Cragin, and Melrose Park on the north, while the district’s southern belt includes the Brookfield, Cicero, and Brighton Park neighborhoods. 
Many argued that Chicago’s sizable Hispanic population could control two seats, but the legislative leaders wanting to protect the city’s three African American districts chose to combine this particular minority group into one district in a configuration that, at the far western point, is contiguous only through two intersecting freeways.
Rep. Gutierrez’s announcement moves the open House seat count to 37, one of which (PA-18) will be decided in a March 13th special election to replace resigned Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh).  Counting Mr. Gutierrez, there are now a dozen Democrats leaving their congressional posts for various reasons as opposed to 25 Republicans. 
Earlier, the open seat count was slow to develop and, for a time, appeared to be running well below the number we’ve seen in the most recent election cycles.  Now, with some candidate filing deadlines beginning to come into focus, thus forcing re-election decisions, the incumbent-less district figure is quickly increasing. 
The largest House open seat number in recent elections came in the 2012 reapportionment and redistricting cycle when 62 seats comprised this category.  In 2014, the number dropped to 47 before slightly ascending to 49 in the 2016 campaign cycle.  To date, from the first election under the various 2011 redistricting plans, 195 House seats, or 45% of the entire body, have opened at some point during the last four elections, including the developing 2018 campaign season.