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.

August 22, 2017 — The First Run-off Poll

August 21, 2017 — A Not-So-Open Seat

August 18, 2017 — The Texas Re-Draw

August 17, 2017 — Alabama's Within the game

August 16, 2017 — AL Run-Off; Curtis Wins

The First Run-off Poll
August 22, 2017
By: Jim Ellis
 
JMC Analytics and Polling, one of the pollsters for the special Alabama Senate Republican primary, is first to release run-off numbers.  In their post-primary survey (8/17-19; 515 completed interviews of Republican likely run-off voters), JMC finds appointed Sen. Luther Strange to be in deep political trouble, but some of the numbers may be slightly exaggerated. 
 
According to the results, former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore leads Sen. Strange by a substantial 51-32% count, remembering that the primary results four days before were 39-33% in the challenger’s favor.  This clearly suggests that supporters of the third place finisher, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville), are flocking to Judge Moore in droves.
 
Geographically, the respondent sample is divided into five segments, with the Huntsville sector coming very close to the confines of Rep. Brooks’ northern Alabama 5th Congressional District.  According to this grouping, Judge Moore receives a commanding 52-29% support factor in this region thus explaining the large statewide polling swing to Moore when compared to the primary results.
 
Judge Moore also does well in the Birmingham sector (49-36%), Montgomery (58-22%), and Dothan (69-19%).  He carries Mobile by just a two-point spread, however, 42-40%. 
 
Though the regional dispersion from the JMC study does not quite match how the primary results were reported – Sen. Strange carried Birmingham, for example – the five polling geographic segments are much larger than the cities for which they are named.  This is particularly true in the case of Birmingham, which covers counties stretching all the way from Georgia to Mississippi and therefore explains the discrepancy.
 
According to the segmentation, Moore leads Strange in all geographic areas but does so through dominating the rural regions.  Combining the rural counties with their closest metropolitan area overshadows Strange’s standing in the cities and suburbs, but the Moore overall margin is too large for this to even be a factor.
 
One area that might be an exaggeration source, however, is the evangelical vote.  While the poll depicts evangelicals as supporting Moore by a 58-28% clip, which is believable, the polling universe appears to contain an over-sampling of the group.  JMC depicts 68% of the full sample self-identifying as evangelical.  The Census Bureau casts the state population at 49% evangelical, and where there is likely to be a greater number of this group voting in a Republican primary or run-off, it is a probable stretch to see that number soar as high as 68%.
 
The one clear area of dominance that Sen. Strange has over Judge Moore is in financial resources, both internally and externally, but even this is not all positive.

While Strange can count on strong media advertising support and assets coming from the Senate Republican leadership PAC community, such may not bode well with most participating run-off voters.  Because so much money will come from Washington, and through a PAC strongly associated with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the preponderance of Alabama Republican run-off voters, at least as depicted in this poll, are turning away from the nominal incumbent.
 
According to the JMC survey results, 45%, respondents would be less likely to vote for Sen. Strange because they see “McConnell spending millions to help elect him” versus only 10% who would be more inclined.
 
In conclusion, Sen. Strange may not be as badly damaged as this poll indicates, but he is clearly significantly behind.  With not much time remaining to close a major gap before the September 26th run-off vote comes to pass, the appointed Senator may have a difficult time in reversing the Moore trend to the degree necessary in order to achieve victory.
 
A Not So Open Seat
August 21, 2017
By: Jim Ellis
 
Currently, we see a low number of open US House seats during this 2018 election cycle, and the number is about to get even smaller.  As early as today, Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) is expected to announce that he has changed political course once again and now will seek re-election.
 
In April, the six-term Congressman announced his candidacy for Governor, only to withdraw two months later.  At the time when ending his statewide bid, Mr. Perlmutter confirmed that he would not be seeking re-election to a seventh term in the House.  Believing the 7th District, a likely Democratic seat, would be open in 2018, three state legislators and a former US Ambassador jumped into the party primary. 

At the very least, each of the three legislators has previously indicated that they would end their congressional campaigns and defer to the returning incumbent should he decide to return.  Therefore, it is likely Perlmutter’s re-entry into the congressional race will not spur a competitive primary campaign.
 
Assuming this predicted new course of action proves true, the number of open regular cycle House seats will temporarily drop to twenty.  At this point in time, the total open seat universe is half of what it was in the last two election cycles, and less than one-third the high water number of 64 we saw in 2012. 
 
The new number does not count the vacant UT-3 seat (special election currently underway to be decided November 7th), or Indiana Rep. Luke Messer’s (R-Greensburg/ Muncie) district.  Mr. Messer has tweeted that he plans to run for the Senate, but has yet to make a formal announcement.
 
The open seat category at this point is an impediment to the Democrats being able to wrest the House majority away from the Republicans.  With only 20 open seats, and eight of those already in Democratic hands, little opportunity for them to gain exists in this key category.
 
Of the 20 open seats, only three are in the toss-up category, and two of those are Democratic.  Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s south Florida district is the only open Republican seat we classify as a toss-up at this time.  The two Democratic seats that could easily flip to the GOP are MN-1 (Rep. Tim Walz running for Governor), and NV-3 (Rep. Jacky Rosen running for Senate). 
 
For the Democrats, two of the opens, CO-2 (Rep. Jared Polis running for Governor) and TX-16 (Rep. Beto O’Rourke running for Senate), are completely safe.  Three more slightly competitive seats, but ones that still will heavily favor the Democratic nominee, AZ-9 (Rep. Kyrsten Sinema running for Senate), MD-6 (Rep. John Delaney running for President), and NM-1 (Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham running for Governor) are cast in the Likely Dem category. 
 
One seat, MA-3 (Rep. Niki Tsongas retiring), could easily move into the Lean Democratic category should a strong GOP candidate emerge.  If a Republican is to win in Massachusetts statewide, he or she must carry the 3rd District to have such a chance.  With Gov. Charlie Baker (R) seeking re-election, the 3rd District will receive extra attention from the statewide re-election campaign in relation to a turnout operation, thus making the GOP congressional nomination more valuable.
 
Turning to the Republican seats, Democratic conversion opportunities appear few and far between.  Of the twelve GOP non-toss-up seats, six are rock solid Republican.  They are: ID-1 (Rep. Raul Labrador running for Governor), IN-4 (Rep. Todd Rokita running for Senate), OK-1 (Rep. Jim Bridenstine adhering to a self-imposed term limit), TN-2 (Rep. Jimmy Duncan retiring), TN-6 (Rep. Diane Black running for Governor), and TX-3 (Rep. Sam Johnson retiring). 
 
Three more seats can be considered Likely Republican, and all would begin with the eventual party nominee at least beginning the general election as a strong favorite for victory.  They are: OH-16 (Rep. Jim Renacci running for Governor), SD-AL (Rep. Kristi Noem running for Governor), and WV-3 (Rep. Evan Jenkins running for Senate). 
 
Two seats can be considered as Lean Republican, and the most likely to move into the Toss-up category from the current list of GOP opens.  The electorates from Reps. Lynn Jenkins (KS-2; retiring) and Steve Pearce’s (NM-2; running for Governor) districts usually vote Republican, but have both gone Democratic within the last dozen years.  A strong Democratic candidate in each seat would become a serious contender.
 
With so few open seat opportunities developing at this point in the election cycle, Democrats will be forced to win a large number of difficult challenger races in order to capture the net 24 seats they need to again become the House majority party.

The Texas Re-Draw
August 18, 2017
By: Jim Ellis
 
The special three-judge panel considering Texas redistricting, which long ago declared the state’s 35th Congressional District as a racial gerrymander, issued a ruling earlier this week that contains re-drawing deadlines.
 
Early in the decade the panel declared District 35, a seat containing parts of both Austin and San Antonio connected by a thin strip traveling south on Interstate 35 between the two cities and represented by veteran Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), as violating parts of the Voting Rights Act.  The ruling cited the intent of map creators to draw the seat using race as a primary basis.  The evidence for such a decision consisted of emails among Republican staff members in the state legislature and Congress that proclaimed such a desire.
 
At the heart of the current issue is then-Attorney General Greg Abbott’s (R) decision to adopt the court’s temporary correction map as the state’s official plan.  Once the legislature and Governor agreed with his idea, the temporary map became permanent, which theoretically ended the process.  The flaw in Abbott’s strategy, however, is the court declared at the time of issuance that the fixes were temporary and all of the problems were not corrected, meaning the plan was designed only to get through the 2014 election after which time the legislature was to create a permanent map.  
 
This week’s ruling surprised most observers because it did not require a re-draw of District 23 (Rep. Will Hurd-R-San Antonio), the long-debated swing seat that stretches from western San Antonio all the way to El Paso, a distance of more than 550 miles.  The seat in addition to CD 35 that must be re-drawn is Rep. Blake Farenthold’s (R-Corpus Christi) 27th District.  Democrats wanted further changes, most particularly in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex in order to create another Hispanic seat within the region.  Though the court questioned District 26 (Rep. Michael Burgess-R-Pilot Point/Denton) in its original ruling, the final order did not include forcing any modifications to the north Texas seats.
 
Since changes are mandated for Districts 27 and 35, by definition other districts will be affected.  Even in a “least change” map, as many as five or six CDs will be touched. 
 
The alterations to Farenthold’s seat could be done relatively easily, confining a territory swap between just two districts: 27, and either CDs 15 (Rep. Vicente Gonzalez-D-McAllen) or 34 (Rep. Filemon Vela-D-Brownsville).  What could well happen, however, is the 27th, a seat that stretches from Corpus Christi north to the Houston suburbs, and then turning west through the city of Victoria and into the Austin suburban area, could lose its main population center, Corpus Christi, which, incidentally contains the Congressman’s home.  Such a draw would keep 27 as a Republican seat, and not result in a Democratic gain since the party already controls CDs 15 and 34. 

District 35’s connection between San Antonio and Austin will likely be eliminated, meaning several other districts are in for substantive changes.  It is here where Democrats could add a seat to their delegation at the expense of a Republican incumbent.  Most particularly, the seats of GOP incumbents Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio), Roger Williams (R-Austin), and/or Michael McCaul (R-Austin) could be affected.
 
The court gave the Governor, ironically now Greg Abbott, whose advocacy for adopting the flawed temporary map as permanent led to the current ruling, until Friday to call a special session of the state legislature for purposes of re-drawing the map.  New map plans are to be delivered to the three-judge panel by September 5th. 
 
It is highly unlikely that Abbott will call the legislature back into session, clinging to the risky proposition that the US Supreme Court will overturn the three-judge panel.  Presuming that the high court does not act, we could well see a new map formed to last the remainder of the decade sometime in late September or October put in place for the 2018 regular elections.  For at least one Austin area Republican, the 2018 election could now become highly competitive.
 
In order to have a greater chance of capturing the House majority, Democrats need major re-draws resulting from court action in Texas and Pennsylvania.  This week’s Texas ruling certainly disappoints them because the ordered changes will likely not result in a multi-seat Democratic gain.  The process is a long way from completion since the new map can still chart an unknown course, but we now know the changes will be confined to south Texas.
 
Alabama's Game Within the Game
August 17, 2017
By: Jim Ellis
 
Tuesday’s special Alabama Senate Republican primary sent former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and appointed Sen. Luther Strange to the September 26th run-off election, but what can we expect from the next round of voting?  Will Judge Moore’s momentum continue to thrust him forward despite being badly out-spent, or will the Alabama and national Republican establishment’s strong support for Sen. Strange allow him to overcome his primary election deficit?
 
On Tuesday, Judge Moore placed first, capturing 39% of the Republican primary vote.  Just over 423,000 people voted in the election, which will likely be similar to the 9/26 projected participation rate.  Most of the time fewer people vote in a run-off than a primary, but recent special elections have yielded a slightly different turnout pattern.  Sen. Strange garnered 33% in the primary and showed strength in the Birmingham area, though he lost substantially in Alabama’s southern region including the metropolitan areas of Montgomery, Mobile, and Dothan.
 
The run-off wild card may well be Rep. Mo Brooks’ (R-Huntsville) voters.  The primary’s third place finisher tallied 20%, translating into more than 83,000 individual supporters.  Since he placed first in his congressional district (41%), and carried his home county of Madison with majority support, northern Alabama will become critical in determining how the run-off concludes.  And, considering that Judge Moore received almost the same number of votes as those who cast ballots in the Democratic primary, it is reasonable to presume that the Republican run-off victor will become a heavy favorite to win the December 12th special general election.
 
Now is when the political game within the game begins in earnest. Though Rep. Brooks lost the Senate nomination on Tuesday, the Congressman announced yesterday that he would seek re-election to his 5th District House seat. 

During the Senate race, which featured a unique situation for a sitting US Representative because he did not have to risk his current position to run statewide, a credible Republican candidate announced a primary challenge to Brooks for the House seat.  Businessman Clayton Hinchman, with close ties to political personnel associated with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), declared his congressional candidacy thus adding further intrigue to both the Senate special election and the impending 2018 AL-5 House race.
 
Presently, Rep. Brooks finds himself in an interesting position.  Whether or not his endorsement of one of the run-off participants would sway enough voters to nominate one or the other is open to debate, but it should be clear that each candidate would want his support. 
 
Remembering it was the McConnell associated Senate Leadership Fund Super PAC that ran scores of negative ads against Brooks, the perception will be that these same consultants who are now involved in the congressional race will have enough power to either increase the negative attacks against the incumbent, or convince challenger Hinchman to possibly drop his campaign all together. 
 
On the other hand, Judge Moore has a strong base within the Republican primary voting base, not one that produced a majority in the Senate race but certainly bigger than any other candidate. Since Brooks was attacked in the statewide campaign for being opposed to President Trump and thus not in tune with the GOP base voter, lending assistance to Moore could bring the Huntsville area Congressman a new set of political benefits.
 
Therefore, the potential exists for Brooks to deliver his endorsement for a remaining Senate candidate to not only help elect that individual, but also himself.
 
Does he endorse Sen. Strange with an agreement that the McConnell forces will retreat from their attacks, or does he go “all in” against the Senate leader’s associated political operation and announce an endorsement of Judge Moore?  Or, does he not directly involve himself?  The decision will be an interesting one and will likely have ramifications for more that one current Alabama political campaign.
AL Run-Off; Curtis Wins
August 16, 2017
By: Jim Ellis
 
AL-Senate
 
The pre-election polling proved accurate last night, as Alabama former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore placed first in the special Senate Republican primary, as predicted, and will advance to a September 26th run-off election. 
 
The Trafalgar Group released the last poll for the special primary cycle.  The survey (8/12-13; 870 GOP likely primary voters) found Judge Moore holding 38% support, followed by appointed Sen. Luther Strange with 24%, and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) dropping back to 17.5%.  The results were almost precise for Moore, understated Sen. Strange’s support, and slightly missed Brooks’ finish. 
 
With just over 417,000 individuals voting in the Republican primary Judge Moore captured 39% of the statewide Republican vote, enough to claim the first run-off position but a long way from securing a majority.
 
Sen. Strange easily took the second run-off slot with 33% finishing well ahead of the third place finisher, Congressman Brooks (20%). 
 
Judge Moore fared best in the rural areas, particularly the southeast, showing major strength in the Montgomery and Dothan areas.  He also topped the field in Mobile, but placed second to Strange in the state’s most populous metropolitan area, Birmingham.  Rep. Brooks broke the 50% barrier in his home county of Madison. 
 
While the polling was generally spot-on for the Republicans, it couldn’t have been more in error on the Democratic side.  Several early surveys predicted that marketing executive and retired Navy officer Robert Kennedy Jr. would force ex-US Attorney Doug Jones into a run-off election.  The end result proved diametrically opposite.
 
Last night, Mr. Jones secured the party nomination outright with a landslide 66-18% victory over Kennedy.  The former Birmingham area federal prosecutor now automatically advances to the December 12th general election, by-passing the September 26th run-off vote.
 
Though Mr. Jones proved strong within his own party, the turnout factor gives the Democrats pause.  Of the almost 579,000 people voting yesterday, 72.3% chose to vote in the Republican primary.  Therefore, we can expect all eyes to be closely watching the 9/26 vote, which may very well decide who permanently replaces ex-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R).  The winner of the December 12th special general will serve through the 2020 election, and is eligible to seek re-election at that time.
 
UT-3
 
The second special primary election of the night produced a winner in the person of Provo Mayor John Curtis.  He will advance as the Republican nominee to the November 7th special general election to face Democrat Kathryn Allen, a physician who became her party’s standard-bearer back in a March special convention. 
 
From a turnout of what should be just over 70,000 Republican voters once all of the mailed ballots have been received and tabulated, Mayor Curtis received 41% of the vote topping the Republican Party endorsed candidate, former state Representative Chris Herrod, who posted 31% support.  In third position was marketing executive Tanner Ainge with a respectable 28%, more than enough to deny Herrod victory and indirectly helped throw the nomination to Mr. Curtis.
 
Mr. Herrod won the March nominating convention, but both Messrs. Curtis and Ainge achieved ballot access through the petition signature option.  Curtis performed best in his hometown of Provo, the district’s largest population center, but his percentage was only one point greater than his district-wide standing. 
 
Though Mayor Curtis will now be a heavy favorite to replace resigned Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Alpine/Sandy) in November, from a district where Hillary Clinton failed to even place second, Dr. Allen is poised to run a strong campaign.  Already sitting on close to $1 million, the Democratic nominee will make her presence felt in the special general, so this will be a campaign that draws some national attention.
 
Sinema's Changing Stance
August 15, 2017
By: Jim Ellis
 
Reports attributed to the Phoenix NBC television news affiliate indicate that Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) will imminently announce a challenge to GOP Sen. Jeff Flake.  For her part, Ms. Sinema concedes that she is “seriously considering” running for the Senate, which is much different than her previous stated position of committing to seek re-election to a fourth US House term.
 
With Rep. Sinema putting herself on the sidelines early in the game, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and state Rep. Randy Friese (D-Tucson), the surgeon who saved Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Tucson) after she was gunned down back in 2011, were being mentioned as potential Senate Democratic candidates. 
 
If Ms. Sinema is to move forward with a Senate challenge to Mr. Flake, it is becoming apparent that Mayor Stanton would divert away from a direct confrontation with the Congresswoman, and instead become a candidate for her open House seat.  It is unclear what, if any, move Dr. Friese might make under this potentially new configuration of candidates.
 
Sen. Flake, along with Nevada Sen. Dean Heller (R), appears to be the most vulnerable Republican standing for re-election.  Though Arizona is a better Republican state than Nevada to the point of electing two GOP Senators, a Governor, controlling five of nine US House seats and both houses of the legislature, Flake finds himself in a tenuous political position largely through his own doing. 
 
The Senator’s very public national feud with President Trump, started during the campaign, has damaged him within the Republican base.  He shows no signs of wanting to retreat from his combative relationship with Mr. Trump, however.  Sen. Flake has already drawn primary opposition, at this point mainly from former state Sen. Kelli Ward, the woman who held Sen. John McCain to a 51-40% re-nomination victory last year. 
 
Ms. Ward is not viewed as being particularly strong, but state Treasurer Jeff DeWit (R), who has already said he will not seek re-election to his current position, could be a viable Republican primary opponent to Sen. Flake.  As President Trump’s Arizona campaign chairman, he would draw the chief executive’s primary support and reports indicate that the President has previously encouraged Mr. DeWit to enter the race.
 
Earlier, it was suggested that Ms. Sinema was waiting to see if Flake attracted a stronger primary opponent than Ward, believing that the incumbent having to face a tough Republican primary might be enough to soften him up even further for the general election.  Mr. DeWit has yet to come forward to declare himself a candidate and, with time quickly passing, it is quite possible that he will not.  Therefore, other factors are now apparently influencing Rep. Sinema to enter the race.
 
The Congresswoman, first elected in a tough 2012 southeast Maricopa County open seat campaign when the 9th District was first created in the 2010 national apportionment formula, has made the seat safe.  Rep. Sinema has moderated her political stance since coming to Congress – she had established herself as being much more liberal as a member of the Arizona legislature – and has ventured on a fundraising tear since the beginning of the year, netting over $3.2 million for her campaign account at the end of June. 
 
All of these moves are consistent with someone looking to launch a statewide campaign, especially when looking at her cash-on-hand totals.  Her financial sums are far in excess of what is needed to win another term from her increasingly Democratic House district.
 
Though Arizona is normally a reliable Republican state, Sen. Flake continues to make himself vulnerable to a strong re-election challenge.  Should Rep. Sinema enter, the Senate campaign’s political dynamic would significantly change.  She may well be positioned to turn several previous close Democratic statewide losses into a challenger win next year.

 


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