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 27, 2017 — Another Questionable Poll
March 24, 2017 — New Apportionment Patterns
March 23, 2017 — More Sunshine Polling
March 22, 2017 — Renacci to Run; Angle, Too
March 21, 2017 — Senate '18 Updates - Part IV

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.
Renacci to Run; Angle, Too
March 22, 2017
By: Jim Ellis
The open Republican gubernatorial primary to succeed term-limited Gov. John Kasich (R) is producing an all-star political lineup.  This week, another prominent GOP politico entered the impending contest, making the May 2018 primary a major political event.
Joining Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and Attorney General and former US Senator Mike DeWine as a gubernatorial candidate is four-term US Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth).  The Congressman officially announced that he will enter the statewide campaign, a move that had been speculated upon for months.  It is further expected that Secretary of State Jon Husted will also soon declare his gubernatorial candidacy. 
Mr. Renacci was first elected to the House in the 2010 Republican wave.  He defeated then-freshman Rep. John Boccieri (D) by eleven percentage points.  Two years earlier Mr. Boccieri had converted the seat for the Democrats after 36-year veteran Congressman Ralph Regula (R-Canton) retired. 
In 2012, redistricting paired Rep. Renacci with then-Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Copley) in a race that the freshman Republican claimed, 52-48%.  The pairing was crafted because Ohio lost two seats in reapportionment.  Ironically, Renacci and Sutton could conceivably face each other again since the latter is an announced Democratic gubernatorial candidate.
Mr. Renacci will leave his 16th District as an open seat in 2018, and though the CD has performed well for the incumbent it is the type of area that could come into play if the mid-term national political trends begin to swing toward the Democrats. 
President Trump carried the seat by a whopping 56-40%, but other races have been much closer.  For example, Mitt Romney won the district by a much tighter 53-45% margin.  Sen. John McCain topped then-Sen. Barack Obama here, 51-47%, in the 2008 presidential election.
OH-16 occupies the area west of Cleveland and Akron, moving south beyond the city of Wooster before turning east to capture territory in and around Canton, before moving northeasterly to Interstate 76.  Two Democratic seats, those of Reps. Marcia Fudge (D-Warrensville Heights/Cleveland) and Tim Ryan (D-Youngstown), intertwine with the 16th around Cleveland and Akron, respectively. 
Several state legislators and local officials, including state Senate President Pro Tempore Larry Obhof, are being mentioned as possible Republican candidates.  The most prominent Democrat from the area is former state House Minority Leader Dean DiPiero, who hails from the city of Parma. 
Tea Party activist and former US Senate nominee Sharron Angle announced that she will return to the intra-party political wars with a 2018 congressional primary challenge to four-term Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City). 
Interestingly, Ms. Angle took up President Trump’s cause in her announcement speech, but fails to acknowledge that her new opponent was actually Trump’s 2016 Nevada campaign chairman.
Ms. Angle came to national notoriety in her battle against Sen. Harry Reid (D) in 2010.  Polling, which proved wrong, showed her in position for an upset, but a strong voter turnout effort from the Reid camp saw the race turn on Election Night by five full percentage points.  She returned in 2016 to challenge then-Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) for the US Senate Republican nomination, but lost in a landslide, 65-23%.  Mr. Heck would go onto lose a close general election to Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto. 
The latest Angle challenge looks to be another long shot effort for a candidate who is losing support with every race in which she competes.  It will be Ms. Angle’s second run for the state’s northern congressional district.  In 2006, she challenged then-Secretary of State Dean Heller (now US Senator) for the open Republican nomination and fell just 421 votes short from almost 69,000 ballots cast. 
It is unlikely that Ms. Angle will become a serious threat to Rep. Amodei, but she may have the ability draw national Tea Party financial support should the Republican incumbents begin to draw the ire of the GOP voting base.  Unless such a scenario unfolds to an alarming degree, Rep. Amodei will be considered a prohibitive favorite for re-nomination next June.
Senate '18 Updates - Part IV
March 21, 2017
By: Jim Ellis
In our fourth and final installment in this update report series, we examine the latest happenings for the remaining seven 2018 US Senate campaigns.
Utah:  Now that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) is sending signals that he will run for an eighth term – he is already the longest-serving Republican Senator in history – much less political attention will be paid to this state.  Should Mr. Hatch decide to retire, then former Massachusetts Governor and presidential nominee Mitt Romney will become the center of attention.  Mr. Romney made statements earlier in the year that he would consider running for the Senate from Utah.  The context, however, was in the realm of an impending Hatch retirement.  Same for former Utah Governor and presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, but his likely appointment as Ambassador to Russia means the former Governor will be removed from the Senate picture irrespective of Sen. Hatch’s status. 
In any event, this seat will remain in Republican hands.  Currently, it appears that the Senator will seek re-election and is projected to win again in 2018.
Vermont:  Former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who will continue to seek office in Vermont as an Independent, is poised to claim a third term next year.  It is unlikely he will draw a major challenge, thus making this a safe seat for the Democratic caucus.
Virginia:  2016 Vice Presidential nominee Tim Kaine (D) will seek re-election to a second Senatorial term next year.  Republicans are looking to mount a challenge, possibly in the person of former presidential and California Senate candidate Carly Fiorina and/or national radio talk show host Laura Ingraham.  Both would begin such a race in a distinct underdog position to Sen. Kaine.  With Virginia voting trends moving more consistently Democratic, Sen. Kaine is viewed as a strong favorite for re-election against any potential Republican opponent.
Washington:  Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) will be on the statewide ballot for a fourth time in 2018, and should romp to another re-election victory.  It is unlikely that Republicans will field a major challenger to oppose the veteran Senator.
West Virginia:  The West Virginia political situation is unique. Incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin (D), clearly the most conservative member of the Democratic caucus, appears politically secure at home.  His state, however, is moving solidly Republican as President Trump scored 69% here in November, the Republican’s second best performance of any state in the country.  The GOP has potential first-tier contenders, the two most notable being Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington) and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.  Of the two, Mr. Morrisey is more likely to run.  This race has the potential of becoming close, but Sen. Manchin’s long record in the state plus his ability to protect his vote on major issues gives him a distinct advantage.  The Senator is the clear early favorite for re-election, but this race merits tracking.
Wisconsin:  Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) will run for a second term, but has already seen two big name potential candidates decide not to challenge her.  Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) announced several weeks ago that he would not run statewide, as did Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke.  The latter is a registered Democrat, but most believed, if he were to run for the Senate, he would do so as a Republican.  After saying that he would not run, Sheriff Clarke then reversed his position somewhat, leaving the door partially open to such a move.
Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, state Senate President Scott Fitzgerald, and venture capitalist and former Senate candidate Eric Hovde are potential Republican contenders in the coming election.  Based upon the Wisconsin electorate moving right in the past several election years (Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Ron Johnson both winning twice, President Trump carrying the state, and each house of the legislature consistently remaining under Republican control), we can expect the 2018 Wisconsin contest to become one of the top Senate races in the country.
Wyoming:  Sen. John Barrasso (R) runs for a second six-year term, and should have little trouble winning re-election.  At this point, he has no primary or general election opposition.