Ellison’s Election Tip Sheet

Polls, polls, polls

Ellison Barber election tip sheet
September 5, 2014

There are quite a few new polls out this week, so the tip sheet might as well reflect that. Here are the three noteworthy polls, all giving Republicans a nice end to the first week of September.


Arkansas is one of the most important races for Republicans this cycle, and a new CNN poll puts the race at a "dead heat" with Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor holding a 2-point lead.

The poll is good for Republicans on its face, but there’s possibly better news within the demographic breakdown.

What’s most interesting about the poll is that Pryor’s Republican challenger, Rep. Tom Cotton, is doing particularly well amongst what is normally a key Democratic voting block.

CNN reports:

The poll shows that each candidate is winning his party's traditional political voting blocs, except Cotton appears strong with a key subset of the national Democratic Party's most faithful supporters—a data point that is likely to raise a red flag among party elders and strategists.

While Pryor holds an 8-point advantage over Cotton with likely women voters overall, Cotton is favored by likely voters among white women by 11 points. Losing a key constituency to an opponent by such a large margin could be devastating.

"The bad news is that he seems to have opened up a new way to lose to Republicans by losing badly with white women," said a Democratic operative who knows Pryor but is not working on his race.

However, the operative says, if Pryor can close the gap, he will win. With fifty-nine days before the election, there is plenty of time for Pyror to do just that, but think about what Cotton has done here. He’s convinced a group that is not a natural ally and more inclined to be skeptical of his candidacy that he is the better than Pryor, and he’s done it by double digits. That’s impressive and it’s not going to be easy to reverse.


In a close, and always interesting race (thanks in part to Fancy Farm)—Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is increasing his lead in Kentucky.

According to Politico:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell holds a slight, 4-point advantage over Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes among likely Kentucky voters, according to a CNN/ORC International poll released Tuesday, in line with other surveys that show the Republican opening up a single-digit lead in what is expected to be the cycle’s most expensive Senate race.

The results put McConnell right at the key 50-percent threshold with Grimes at 46 percent.

This is consistent with other recent public polls, but it is also within the survey’s 4 percent margin of error. An automated SurveyUSA poll for the in-state media outlets released last weekend had McConnell up 46-42. And McConnell led by 5 points, 47-42, in a robopoll from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling earlier in August.

Fifty percent is likely welcome news for the McConnell campaign. They have maintained a slight lead in almost every poll for months now, and this is a more significant lead than earlier polls that placed McConnell ahead by only one point.

Still, as I’ve said before, Grimes is a formidable challenger. This poll suggests McConnell is pulling ahead, but it is not a comfortable lead. McConnell needs to increase that gap if Republicans want to keep the seat. 


New Hampshire is a race that has changed dramatically in recent weeks. For months, the incumbent Democrat, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, has held a double-digit lead, but two polls over the past two weeks have shown the gap shrinking.

The first poll, reported on by the Boston Globe, found Shaheen holding a 2-point lead over her challenger, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown. The slight lead was significant because the same polling company, WMUR, had Shaheen ahead by 12 points just weeks before.

Now, there’s another poll suggesting Brown’s campaign is gaining momentum as they continue to narrow Shaheen’s advantage.

The New Hampshire Journal notes:

A poll completed for the pro-Republican Super PAC American Crossroads has Sen. Jeanne Shaheen with a 3 percentage point lead over Republican former Sen. Scott Brown in a potential general election matchup in New Hampshire. […]

Shaheen leads Brown 44 to 41 percent with Libertarian Gardner Goldsmith supported by 9 percent, while 6 percent are undecided, according to the GOP polling firm.