Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Energy Issue Looms in W.Va. With EPA; Ellis Makes a Move in Michigan

In Election Analysis on June 6, 2014 at 10:35 am

The air wars have been underway for months in southern West Virginia, and the American Energy Alliance just upped the ante this week.

The issue advocacy organization is targeting vulnerable Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV-3) with a new ad about what they claim is the congressman’s failure to stand up to President Obama and his Environmental Protection Agency. The group wasted little time in going on the attack, releasing this ad just days after the Obama Administration announced new and more restrictive EPA regulations. West Virginia, with their strong coal-producing region lying in the heart of Rahall’s district, will be hit especially hard with the new regulations.

This race has already been interesting. Both campaigns have released data giving their candidate a double-digit lead, unusual in the fact that opposite polls show the same spread for each man when leading. In early March, Republican Evan Jenkins released a Tarrance Group poll (March 3-5; 405 WV-3 registered voters) that gave him a seemingly unfathomable 54-40 percent lead over the 19-term congressional veteran. This week, the House Majority PAC publicized their snapshot tracking poll from the Garin Hart Yang Research Group (May 26-28; 403 WV-3 registered voters), giving the congressman a 52-39 percent advantage.

Energy, particularly as it relates to coal and cap-and-trade, will be a focal point of this campaign. So will President Obama, who is highly unpopular here. While Rep. Rahall was winning re-election here in 2012 with 54 percent of the vote, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney crushed the President, 65-33 percent.

Outside organizations from both sides of the political spectrum have already dropped millions of dollars into the race. We can expect to see more ads such as the one AEA has launched. Expect this to be a brutal campaign all the way to the general election.

MI-3

New data is surfacing in the Republican primary challenge to sophomore Rep. Justin Amash that suggests challenger Brian Ellis is beginning to make a move. This race is significant because it is one of the “reverse” primaries – that is, an establishment-backed Republican challenging a Tea Party incumbent.

The Michigan Information and Research Service (MIRS), an organization not affiliated with any candidate, conducted a survey of the western Michigan Republican electorate in the Grand Rapids-anchored congressional district. The survey (May 27-29; 472 MI-3 likely Republican primary voters via automated telemarketing) gives Rep. Amash a 42-23 percent lead over businessman Ellis, the latter engaged in his first campaign as a candidate.

Though Rep. Amash still enjoys a large lead, there are danger points for him. First, he falls sharply below 50 percent, a warning sign for any incumbent two months away from an election. Second, Ellis is consistently closing the gap. Earlier in the year, Amash led by as many as 48 points. In mid-May, The Polling Company, surveying for the Freedom Works organization who supports Amash (May 16-18; 400 MI-3 likely Republican primary voters), found the congressman leading 53-23 percent. Comparing this to the MIRS data, the Amash margin has slipped a net 11 percentage points in about a 10-day period.

The race is already distinctly breaking over Tea Party affiliation. Those who support the Tea Party efforts, according to MIRS, back Amash 64-19 percent. Among the respondents expressing a negative view of the Tea Party, it is Ellis who leads 38-26 percent.

Both men have done well in fundraising. Through March 31, Amash had banked more than $1.2 million, while challenger Ellis had pulled in a respectable $829,641. Both can count on outside organizations coming to their aid before the Aug. 5 primary election.

Now that Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID-2) has fended off what began as the most serious Tea Party challenge to a sitting US House incumbent, this Amash-Ellis Michigan race begins to take center stage. This campaign has the potential of becoming a defining national contest.

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