Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Kansas Senate Maneuverings; Alaska’s Polling Skew; Fox Polling Shows Interesting Data

In Governor, Polling, Senate on September 19, 2014 at 10:34 am

Kansas Senate

As had been predicted by Kansas political observers since the original judicial hearing earlier this week, the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of former Democratic Senate nominee Chad Taylor’s petition to withdraw from the statewide race. Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), who refused to remove Taylor because he is not incapacitated to the point of being unable to fulfill the duties of the office sought as mandated in Kansas election law, says the Democrats have eight days to replace Taylor. The party leadership’s political goal of having Taylor withdraw is to form a united coalition behind Independent candidate Greg Orman who was proving himself stronger than their own nominated contender. Clearly their calculations showed that incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts (R) had the path to victory in a three-way race.

The Kansas Supreme Court, a panel of six justices (with one vacancy) dominated by former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ (D) appointees, issue rather bizarre language to support their decision. The justices unanimously said that, “[w]e conclude the plain meaning of ‘pursuant to (the law)’ contained in Taylor’s letter effectively declares he is incapable of fulfilling the duties of office if elected.” But Taylor never indicated why he was withdrawing, only stating a desire to do so.

Secretary Kobach is now saying the Democrats must replace Taylor, but the justices indicated they see no need to make a ruling on his latest decree. Therefore, Democrats are not expected to do anything. It is now very likely that the party leadership has shrewdly maneuvered Roberts into the two-way race they believe they needed and think the chances of defeating the incumbent Republican are legitimate.

Alaska Polling Skew

The two September public polls conducted by liberal organizations (Hays Research for the AFL-CIO, and Harstad Research for the Senate Majority PAC) both posted Sen. Mark Begich (D) to five-point leads over former attorney general and Natural Resources Department director Dan Sullivan (R). But, according to nationally renowned statistician Nate Silver of the FiveThirtyEight organization, Alaska polling over more than a decade possesses a severe Democratic skew.

Silver analyzed 31 statewide public polls conducted in various Alaska campaigns from election year 2000, inclusive, through 2012. When comparing these polls to the actual results recorded in the various years, an average Democratic skew of 7.2 percent was in evidence.

The biggest miss occurred in the at-large House race of 2008, a campaign that veteran Rep. Don Young (R-AK-AL) was predicted to lose. In fact, the skew was a huge 12.5 percentage points. Polling projected Young losing by an average of 7.3 points, but he won by a 5.2 percent margin of victory. Also that year, when then-Anchorage Mayor Begich nipped veteran Sen. Ted Stevens (R), polling had predicted that the Democrat’s victory margin would actually be over 8.5 points instead of his actual slim 1.2 percent margin.

Only one poll since May has given Sen. Begich a lead bigger than seven points. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the Democratic incumbent isn’t doing nearly as well as the preponderance of polling suggests, and that we see yet another race that is a virtual tie.

Fox Polling

The Fox news organization contracted with a Democratic survey research firm (Anderson Robbins Research) and a Republican-oriented pollster (Shaw & Company Research) to collaborate on studies in several key political states. All of the surveys were conducted from Sept. 14-16, with sampling universes between 600 and 617 respondents.

One result constitutes a shock poll, one confirms that what should be a safe re-election jaunt for an incumbent governor is anything but, and the last one reconfirms a Senate race that some believe is beginning to slip toward the Democrats is actually tied.

According to the bi-partisan poll, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA-6) has opened up an enormous 51-38 percent advantage over incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) in Louisiana. There is no other data showing anything close to such a spread, so this one could be an outlier.

In Kansas, the bi-partisan poll confirms what 10 of 14 public polls released about the governor’s race has previously found, that Gov. Sam Brownback (R) is trailing. The bi-partisan poll gives state House Minority Leader Paul Davis (D) 45-41 percent advantage, consistent with the other pollsters who have studied the electorate during the same time frame.

Turning to Iowa, the Fox bi-partisan survey confirms what most other pollsters are seeing, and discounts reports that anonymous Republicans believe the Senate race is beginning to slip away from them. The bi-partisan poll results forecast that state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) and Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA-1) remain in a flat tie, 41-41 percent.

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