Kasich Drops Into Tie


Ohio Governor John Kasich has been, possibly until now, performing well in his early re-election bid.  A new poll taken for the Ohio Democratic Party, however, suggests the race has tightened to the point of being a virtual tie.  

Public Policy Polling (4/14-15; 1,050 OH registered voters), surveying for the ODP, finds the Governor falling into a tie at 44% with Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald (D), but the study may be slightly skewed.  

Looking at the PPP crosstabs allows us to glean some key information.  Most notably, the poll skews female because women comprise 53% of the respondent pool compared to their 51% share of the Ohio population at large.  Since the female vote tips toward FitzGerald, the overall ballot test is likely distorted by a slight margin.

The poll’s gender segmentation is significant because the divisions here are not as stark as found in most studies of this race and others.  Here we find that women break only 45-43% in FitzGerald’s favor, far closer than a normal Democrat-Republican split.  This should be good news for Gov. Kasich.  

The male segment, however, is also performing abnormally.  While women tend to break for Democrats in greater numbers than suggested in this data, conversely, men gravitate more strongly toward Republicans.  But PPP only detects a 46-44% male split in Kasich’s favor.  Therefore, according to this survey, the Governor is over-performing with women and under-performing among men.

Other segmentation appears normal.  The FitzGerald minority share is strong, as one would expect for a big city Democrat.  The African American segment breaks 74-11% for the presumed Democratic nominee, which is unsurprising.  Among whites, the Governor takes 51% as compared to FitzGerald’s 39 percent.  Therefore, the Democratic challenge is to spike the minority voter participation figure as close to the presidential turnout model as possible.  

In terms of party breakdown, Kasich is receiving 82% of the Republican vote, whereas FitzGerald attracts a similar 79% among Democrats, normal numbers for both men in relation to other polls.  Also as expected, FitzGerald does best with the youngest voters, while Kasich’s performance grows with age.  The Governor’s strongest segment is the 65+ group, where he scores a 51-39% share.

While the survey’s aggregate number portends a tie between the two candidates, Gov. Kasich actually has a slight advantage.  As described above, the sample skews slightly toward FitzGerald, but Kasich sees that his strongest segments represent those people who have the greatest propensity to vote.  

As we all know, Ohio is one of the most significant swing states within the American electorate.  Many people believe that Gov. Kasich is a budding 2016 Republican presidential candidate.  Should he successfully win re-election, a two-term Ohio Governor would have a strong pedigree in a national campaign, one that national Republicans might have a hard time overlooking.  Hence, the 2014 Ohio Governor’s campaign is a race of major national significance.

The Ohio primary is May 6th, but both Kasich and FitzGerald are consensus candidates within their respective political party structures and will sail through to their respective nominations.


Dems Hit Tillis


It is becoming clear who the Democrats don’t want Sen. Kay Hagan to face in November.  The Senate Majority PAC, conducting an independent expenditure operation in the North Carolina Senate race, just unleashed a major attack ad against state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Cornelius).  This is their second wave of commercials that individually targets Mr. Tillis.

The Tar Heel State race is one of the key contests that will likely determine which party captures the Senate majority.  Sen. Hagan seeks a second term after defeating then-Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R) in the 2008 general election, but is having a difficult time breaking away from the pack in this campaign.  Poll after poll shows the incumbent lagging slightly behind all of her Republican opponents, even though virtually all of them have low name identification.  Clearly, a sitting Senator trailing candidates such as Heather Grant, an Iraq war veteran and nurse, while only consistently scoring in the low 40 percentile range is cause for concern.

The Senate Majority PAC is concentrating on a scandal involving two Tillis former aides, who were forced to resign their positions because of extra-marital affairs with lobbyists in Raleigh.  The script ends with the accusation that Tillis gave the men taxpayer funded severance packages upon their departure from state service. 

The idea of attacking a certain member of the opposite party in said individual’s primary is becoming more prevalent since the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling of 2010.  The decision allows unlimited expenditures from outside groups so long as their message and expenditures are uncoordinated with the supported candidate and/or campaign. 

This particular ad is designed to create a negative image of Tillis before the conservative North Carolina Republican base voter.  The optimum situation for Democrats is to see a secondary run-off election transpire - if no one receives 40% of the vote, the top two finishers advance to a second election on July 15th - in order to hamstring the Republicans for an additional two months in hopes of producing a battered and weakened GOP nominee.

The Republican field consists of Tillis, Ms. Grant, physician Greg Brannon, Charlotte pastor Mark Harris, former Shelby Mayor Ted Alexander, ex-state Rep. Jim Snyder Jr., and two also-ran candidates.  Early primary polling suggests that Tillis leads the group, but is a long way from hitting the 40% plateau.  The latest published NC Senate primary poll (Public Policy Polling; 4/3-6; 314 NC Republican primary voters) gives Tillis only an 18-15-11-7-6% margin over Brannon, Harris, Grant, and Alexander, respectively.  This data, obviously, suggests a run-off looms on the horizon as the May 6th primary date quickly approaches.




Petri Out; Brown In


Veteran Wisconsin Congressman Tom Petri (R-Fond du Lac) originally elected in a 1979 special election, meaning he is ninth in House seniority, joined the long line of retiring House members as the weekend began.  Mr. Petri formally announced that he will not seek a 19th term in November.  The development means that 44 House seats will be open in 2014, in addition to the seven districts that have been filled in special elections since the 113th Congress began.

Last week, conservative state Sen. Glenn Grothman launched a Republican primary challenge to the Congressman, and it is unclear whether the intra-party challenge influenced Mr. Petri’s decision to retire.  Reported to be considering entering the now open Republican primary contest are state Assemblyman Duey Stroebel, Ozaukee County Supervisor Joe Dean, and John Hiller, the former campaign treasurer for Gov. Scott Walker (R).

The 6th District sits between Milwaukee and Green Bay, borders Lake Michigan on the east, and then stretches westward to central Wisconsin.  It’s major population centers are the cities of Oshkosh, Sheboygan, Fond du Lac, Manitowoc, and Neenah.  Mitt Romney carried the 6th District with 53% of the vote in 2012, but in 2008, President Obama nipped John McCain here by a slight 49.4-49.3% margin.  Mr. Petri serves on the Transportation & Infrastructure and Education and the Workforce committees.  Despite his seniority rank, Mr. Petri has not chaired a full committee.


Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) is now an official statewide candidate in New Hampshire and has already released his first television ad.  At the same time two polls became public, each showing a varying lead for incumbent Jeanne Shaheen (D).

Public Policy Polling, conducting a survey for the League of Conservation Voters (4/7-8; 1,034 NH registered voters), finds Sen. Shaheen ahead by a 49-41% count, significantly beyond the margin of polling error.  The two candidates’ favorability scores are vastly different, however.  Sen. Shaheen has a 47:46% positive to negative job approval ratio, whereas Mr. Brown records a poor 35:49% rating.

In a similar time frame, the University of New Hampshire (4/1-9; 507 NH adults; 387 registered voters), finds a tighter 45-39% ballot test, and much different favorability scores for both individuals.  According to UNH, the Senator has a much better 49:35% job approval index, and Mr. Brown records a significantly improved 39:29% positive to negative personal favorability score.

Though the ballot tests are in the same relative range, the favorability ratings for both candidates are widely divergent.  Public Policy Polling typically skews negative on most job and personal favorability ratios, so it is not surprising that they found a similar result in this case.  Though UNH has not proven to be a particularly reliable pollster, their favorability ratings seem more believable than the consistently upside down scores that PPP routinely records.

The two polls are telling us that this campaign has the strong potential of becoming a highly competitive, and particularly so when considering the radical swings that New Hampshire voters have ventured upon since the 2006 election. No state has swung more widely or so thoroughly as the Granite State.  Considering their recent electoral history, any outcome is possible here in 2014.

Mr. Brown opens his ad campaign again featuring the truck that he made famous during his Massachusetts campaigns.  The positive ad is attached for your viewing.


Dems Counter: AR; IA

Arkansas Senate

The Little Rock based Opinion Research Associates (4/1-8; 400 AR registered voters) just released a new poll giving Sen. Mark Pryor (D) a significant 48-38% lead over Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR-4), and the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s political director screamed in response.

Through most of February, Sen. Pryor had consistently trailed Rep. Cotton in margins between four and six percentage points.  Toward the latter part of that month and into March, the incumbent began clawing back to even status, and then beyond.  The last Hendrix College/Talk Business poll (4/3-4; 1,068 AR registered voters), for example, projected the Senator to a three-point, 46-43% advantage.  Though ORA is not a well-known federal race pollster, Hendrix College/TB is, and the latter has developed an accurate track record from surveying Arkansas voters.

In response to the new ORA survey, Ward Baker, the NRSC Political Director, in a released statement called the conclusions “hogwash”.  He pointed out that the sampling subset skewed Democratic by a minimum of seven points over what exit polling and other surveys have routinely detected.  He also criticized the long sampling period (eight days), especially when the total respondent universe was low, at just 400 people.  He said correctly extrapolating the ORA findings brings the race back to within the margin of error.

Both sides are attempting to sell extreme conclusions.  While the NRSC argument that the ORA poll skews Democratic is correct, and the race is closer than their numbers maintain, the overall data from this and other polls suggest that momentum is turning in Pryor’s favor. 

While both candidates will likely see periods when they are consistently leading - Cotton in the early part of the year; Pryor now - reality suggests that both men have a strong chance to win and the late political winds will likely dictate the final result.  While Cotton will likely benefit from a voter backlash against Washington, Pryor should get a boost from a strong Democratic Governor’s campaign that will go a long way to defining the turnout model. 

Expect this race to continue see-sawing all the way to November. 

Iowa Senate

In the last week of March, Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA-1) created controversy when saying in what he thought was a private meeting of sympathetic Texas trial attorneys, that the Democrats losing Iowa and the Senate majority would result in a “farmer from Iowa who hasn’t even been to law school” becoming the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

Immediately, two outside organizations went on the attack with ads disparaging the mis-stepping Congressman, complete with video of his comments.  Now, the drivers at the Senate Majority PAC, obviously understanding that the comments and subsequent earned and paid media coverage have badly damaged Braley within the all-important Iowa agriculture community, launched a new ad buy to attempt to restore the Congressman’s tarnished image.

The ad, featuring two clearly legitimate Iowa farmers probably from Braley’s home region of Waterloo since they claim to know he and his family, deals in a bit of subterfuge.  Several times the script infers that “other people” are saying negative things about Braley and damaging his standing within the ag community.  The ad ends with the local supporters saying they “know Bruce” and that “he’s got our back,” after saying they look at his actions and not what “people say.”

The problem for Braley is that “people” didn’t make the negative comments about Sen. Chuck Grassley (the “Iowa farmer who hasn’t even been to law school”) and being an Iowa farmer.  The comment came from Rep. Braley himself, and we can expect to be reminded of it for a long time to come.

The Senate Majority PAC taking to the airwaves this quickly tells us that the subsequent news coverage and attack media launched against the consensus Democratic Senatorial candidate have inflicted major political damage to his campaign efforts.  What we don’t know is the amount of time needed to repair harm, but their restoration effort has clearly begun.



Better News for Cochran


The Mississippi polling data is now being released at a fast and furious pace.  Earlier in the week, we reported about a NSON Opinion Strategies (4/2; 400 MS Republican primary voters) survey that projected veteran Sen. Thad Cochran to be leading his Republican primary challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, by a rather soft 45-37% margin.  Yesterday, Harper Polling (4/3-5; 570 MS Republican primary voters) released results that place the Senator in much stronger political position.

According to Harper, Mr. Cochran’s lead is a much more robust 52-35%, but does show movement in McDaniel’s favor when compared to the firm’s previous Mississippi Republican survey (December 2013).  In that poll, HP found the incumbent to be leading 54-31%. 

But, the data does illuminate Sen. Cochran’s areas of weakness.  Among self-described Tea Party supporters, the two candidates were tied at 43% apiece in December, but now Mr. McDaniel has opened a substantial 53-35% within this segment.  Among those who say they are “very conservative” Cochran led in December 49-38%.  Now, it is McDaniel with an internal one-point lead, 45-44%. 

The negative ads aimed at each man have taken their toll.  The Senator’s personal favorability rating has come down since December, as has Mr. McDaniel’s.  Earlier, Sen. Cochran had a 64:28% favorable to unfavorable image.  Now, this same question only records a 59:30% positive to negative response for him. 

Though state Sen. McDaniel’s aggregate rating was small in December because his statewide name identification was relatively low (33:17% favorable to unfavorable), he had a positive spread.  While his ID has increased steadily, his positive ratio has now closed to 37:31%.

The Ads

Meanwhile, the television ad wars have begun in earnest for the June 3rd primary.  Four commercials have been released since the month began, two spots from outside organizations, and two from the Cochran campaign.  The first outside group ad tears Cochran down, while the second supports McDaniel.  Of the Senator’s two spots, one touts his conservative credentials, and the other goes after McDaniel.

The Club for Growth ad hits the Senator for voting with Jimmy Carter in the ‘70s to expand federal control of education; in the 1990’s for George H.W. Bush’s tax increase budget; and at present with President Obama to raise the national debt.  The script ends, saying “Thad Cochran: five decades in Congress is enough.”

The Senate Conservatives Fund commercial highlights a McDaniel rally speech where he claims that “every compromise the conservatives reach, the liberals always win”, and pledges to “restore the US Constitution, eliminate the national debt, to eliminate Obamacare.”

In his attack ad, Sen. Cochran hits McDaniel for responding “I don’t know” when asked if he would have supported Mississippi Delta Relief Fund in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  He further quotes the state legislator as saying to Mississippians that “I won’t do anything for you”, in reference to being their US Senator if he were elected.

The early April Cochran spot features a positive script touting his endorsement from the NRA, voting against Obamacare 100 times, his 100% voting record with “National Right to Life”, and receiving official backing from Gov. Phil Bryant (R).  According to the Harper Poll, both sitting incumbent Bryant and former Gov. Haley Barbour (R) have extremely high approval ratings among the Republican electorate (79:9% for Bryant compared to Barbour’s 72:17%).  Both have been featured prominently in the Cochran campaign.

This race continues as the most serious primary challenge to a sitting Republican Senator in the country, and the action promises only to get hotter as we steam to culmination at the end of Spring.