At Saturday’s Eden-Monaro byelection, Labor’s Kristy McBain currently leads the Liberals’ Fiona Kotvojs by a 50.7-49.3 projected margin in The Poll Bludger’s Eden-Monaro election page. This page has all the numbers, including booth by booth results. The projected margin is an estimate of the margin once all votes are counted, not the current margin. McBain is given a 74% win probability.
Primary vote projections are currently 38.5% Liberal, 35.3% Labor, 6% National, 6% Greens and 14.2% for all Others. Had preference flows at the byelection been similar to the 2019 federal election, the Liberals would have won. But Labor currently has 50% of all preferences, a 10% swing on preference flows to Labor.
While the Greens lost vote share, much of it went to Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP), which won 2.5%. Labor also benefited from the “donkey vote” coming from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers. The Shooters were first on the ballot paper, with Labor ahead of the Liberals.
If Labor holds on in Eden-Monaro, it will be a huge relief for Anthony Albanese. Analyst Peter Brent wrote in Inside Story that, while no government has gained an opposition-held seat at a byelection in almost a century, the lack of a personal vote for the sitting MP in opposition-held seats means they are far more likely to swing to the government at a byelection than in a government-held seat.
In 2013, the Abbott government achieved a 1.2% two party swing in former PM Kevin Rudd’s seat of Griffith at a byelection. Had that swing occurred Saturday, the Liberals would have gained Eden-Monaro.
Premiers still have high ratings, but Andrews falls in Victoria
In late April, Newspoll polled the ratings of the six premiers, and this exercise was repeated last week. Samples were 500-550 for the mainland states, and 311 in Tasmania.
Tasmanian Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein had the best ratings in the June premiers’ Newspoll, at 90% satisfied, 8% dissatisfied (net +82). His satisfaction rating overtook WA Labor Premier Mark McGowan in April (89%) as the best ever for a premier or PM in Australian polling history.
Gutwein’s net approval was up nine points from April, while McGowan slid four points to a still very high 88% satisfied, 9% dissatisfied (net +79).
The biggest change in net approval was Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews. His net approval fell 18 points to +40, with 67% satisfied and 27% dissatisfied. Andrews’s fall appears to be related to the recent spike in Victorian coronavirus cases, not the Adem Somyurek branch stacking affair. His net ratings on handling coronavirus fell sharply from +74 to +47.
NSW Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian had a +42 net approval, down from +46, with 68% satisfied and 26% dissatisfied. SA Liberal Premier Steven Marshall had a +52 net approval, up from +47, with 72% satisfied and 20% dissatisfied.
Queensland Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk continued to trail with a +24 net approval, though that was up eight points. 59% were satisfied and 35% dissatisfied. The Queensland election will be held in late October.
Scott Morrison had a +41 net approval in last Monday’s federal Newspoll. Palaszczuk trails Morrison, Andrews and Berejiklian are about level, Marshall is above him, and McGowan and Gutwein are far ahead.
A good US jobs report, but there’s a long way to go
The June US jobs report was released Thursday. 4.8 million jobs were created and the unemployment rate dropped 2.2% to 11.1%. While the unemployment rate is far better than the 14.7% in April, it is far worse than during a normal economy.
The employment population ratio – the percentage of eligible Americans that are employed – rose 1.8% in June to 54.6%. But at the lowest point of the recovery from the global financial crisis, the employment ratio was 58.2%.
The surveys used for the jobs report were conducted in mid-June, before the recent spike in US coronavirus cases, which peaked at over 57,000 on Thursday. This new spike may derail an economic recovery.
Eden-Monaro voters are calling for a compassionate and empathetic recovery process as Australia emerges from the pandemic.
In focus group research conducted this week, ahead of Saturday’s byelection, the vast majority of participants favoured increasing the JobSeeker payment above the pre-COVID level, extending the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme, and providing targeted help for areas hit hard by the summer fires and the impact of the coronavirus.
More surprising, almost all participants were willing to pay more tax to assist the economic and social recovery effort. Many were concerned about leaving debt for future generations.
This was the second round of online research by the University of Canberra’s Mark Evans and Max Halupka. Two groups, with 10 and nine participants respectively, were held on Monday and Tuesday. All but three participants had taken part in the research’s first round. Drawn widely from the diverse electorate, participants included aligned and swinging voters.
Focus group research taps into voters’ attitudes rather than being predictive of the outcome.
Both Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese have been very active in the seat as voting day nears, although over the campaign as a whole Albanese has been on the ground much more than the PM. But the Liberals have invested heavily in an effort to wrest the seat – which is on a margin of under 1% – from Labor and increase the government’s parliamentary majority.
There was only marginal change in participants’ views on the key issues.
Top issues are: action on climate change, the federal government’s response to the bushfire crisis, job creation, better access to public health care, and addressing the high cost of living.
Climate change action continued to receive the greatest support when people were asked to nominate the one most important issue to them. Most participants saw a link between the bushfire crisis and the need for climate action.
People continued to be aggrieved at the Morrison government’s handling of the fire crisis, which they thought suffered from poor federal leadership, inadequate preparation and insufficient collaboration between federal and state government.
In the second round discussion, there was greater concern over economic recovery issues. “The economy looks weak so we will need good economic management and that tends to come from the Coalition,” a retired Coalition voter noted.
But there was some cynicism over the extra support the government has promised.
People saw Morrison’s announcement in Bega of a $86 million package for the forestry industry, wine producers and apple growers hit by the bushfires as “guilt money”. “It’s an obvious bribe – which might well work,” said a middle-aged hard Coalition supporter, while a female Greens voter described it as “a shameful example of logrolling”.
Most participants thought there would still be a bushfire backlash against the Coalition, despite Morrison’s announcement.
The government is hoping Morrison’s performance on the pandemic negates criticism of his handling of the fires.
Since their first discussion, people have cooled in their views of leaders’ management of the virus crisis. Morrison is now seen as the best performer, followed by NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian, a reversal from the first round.
Berejiklian’s poorer performance is attributed to general annoyance with the states and the perception they are acting “selfishly”. The vast majority of participants think Morrison “is handling the coronavirus outbreak competently and efficiently.” But people are worried by a second wave and cautious about re-opening too quickly.
Albanese is a distant third (the question about him was whether he was doing a good job holding the PM to account); his performance was rated more poorly in the second discussion compared with the first. He wasn’t impacting on the core political agenda: “he hasn’t got a plan,” said one participant.
The vast majority of participants, however, did not believe any party was offering a clear COVID-19 recovery plan and were surprised there hadn’t been a national conversation on the issue.
COVID-19 has constrained the usual forms of campaigning, and has led to a very high demand for postal votes. Participants perceived the Coalition had run a very traditional campaign using “old media”, while they thought Labor had run a “new media” campaign with more emphasis on social media platforms.
Both the major candidates are seen positively. Fiona Kotvojs (Liberal) was considered an “excellent” candidate even by Labor supporters. But several people suggested the intervention of senior Coalition figures in the campaign (Morrison and Payne) may have “reduced her community standing”. Labor’s Kristy McBain was considered a “really hard working” and a “very well liked” candidate by Coalition supporters.
But McBain was regarded as having run the better campaign.
When people were asked who they would vote for, the responses suggested a Labor victory and strong support for McBain. However there had been some attitudinal changes over the campaign.
There appeared to be a marginal increase in support for Cathy Griff (Greens) as the campaign neared its end and two independent candidates emerged from the woodwork – Narelle Storey (Christian Democratic Party) and Matthew Stadtmiller (Shooters, Fishers and Farmers) – during the discussion. That suggested the possibility certain soft Coalition voters might be exercising a protest vote against the government.
Some soft Coalition and Green voters might have moved to Labor and some soft Coalition voters to the Greens, but hard Coalition, Green and Labor voters looked to be remaining loyal.
Kotvojs’s well-resourced campaign appeared to be losing some momentum. But the participants continued to think the election – a straight Labor-Liberal battle despite a field of 14 candidates – would be very close.
This is a byelection where even seasoned watchers are wary of chancing their arm in advance of Saturday night.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s approval ratings continue to soar thanks to his handling of the coronavirus crisis, reaching the highest level for any prime minister since the early years of the Rudd government in this week’s Newspoll.
Morrison’s approval rating was at 68%, up two points from the last Newspoll, while 27% of respondents were dissatisfied. His net approval rating was +41.
This is Morrison’s highest net approval, topping the +40 he achieved in a late April Newspoll. It is also the best net approval for any PM since Kevin Rudd had +43 in October 2009.
This week’s Newspoll, conducted June 24-27 from a sample of 1,520 people, gave the Coalition a 51-49% lead, unchanged on three weeks ago.
Primary votes were 42% Coalition (steady), 35% Labor (up one), 11% Greens (down one) and 3% One Nation (down one).
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese had a net approval of +2, down one point. Morrison led Albanese as better PM by 58-26%.
Given Morrison’s stratospheric ratings, it is surprising the Coalition is not further ahead on voting intentions. This could be due to the fact the national cabinet has been in charge of coronavirus policy-making, and these decisions are seen as more bipartisan and do not boost the Coalition.
Labor leading in Eden-Monaro byelection polls
The Eden-Monaro byelection will be held on Saturday following the April resignation of Labor MP Mike Kelly. Labor won the seat by just a 50.9-49.1% margin at the 2019 election.
The Poll Bludger reported on two Eden-Monaro polls last week by the robo-pollster uComms, one for The Australia Institute and the other for the Australian Forest Products Association.
The Australian Institute poll gave Labor a 53-47% lead by 2019 election preference flows, and a 54-46% lead by respondent allocated preferences. The AFPA poll gave Labor a 52-48% lead.
These two polls are much better for Labor than an internal party poll, reported on June 13, which showed the Liberals clearly positioned on primary votes to gain the seat.
Biden further extends lead over Trump
US President Donald Trump’s approval ratings are at their worst since the US government shutdown in January 2019.
In the latest FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Trump’s ratings with all polls are 40.6% approve, 56.1% disapprove (net -15.5%). With polls of registered or likely voters, his ratings are 40.9% approve, 55.5% disapprove (net -14.6%).
With the presidential election now just over four months away, FiveThirtyEight has started tracking the presidential general election polls.
As there are far more national polls than state polls, the website adjusts state polls for the national trend. So, as former Vice President Joe Biden widens his national lead, FiveThirtyEight will adjust states in Biden’s favour where there hasn’t been recent polling.
The latest national poll aggregate gives Biden a 50.7% to 41.4% lead over Trump. US polls usually include an undecided option, so the remaining voters are mostly undecided, not third party. Three weeks ago, Biden’s lead was 6.6 percentage points.
In 2016, four states – Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida – voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton by 1.2% or less. In the latest FiveThirtyEight aggregate, Biden leads in Florida by 7.2%, Pennsylvania by 8.0%, Wisconsin by 8.1% and Michigan by 10.6%.
Biden also leads in several states Trump won comfortably in 2016, such as Arizona (a 4.7% lead over Trump), Georgia (1.4% lead), North Carolina (2.9% lead) and Ohio (2.6% lead). Trump maintains an extremely narrow lead in Iowa (0.1%) and Texas (0.3%).
If the election were being held next week, there is little doubt Biden would win both the national popular vote and the Electoral College easily.
Can Trump recover before November 3? If Biden’s national lead is reduced to fewer than five points, the Electoral College could save Trump, as the Democrat’s lead is narrower in the pivotal battleground states.
Trump’s approval ratings have taken a hit due to his responses to the pandemic and the protests after the police killing of George Floyd.
Earlier this month, US coronavirus cases and deaths had fallen from their peaks in April, but there has been a surge in the last week. Over 45,000 new cases were recorded Friday, the highest single-day total since the pandemic began.
Political analyst Nate Silver says this increase is not caused by greater testing (as Trump claims), noting the positive test rate rose to 7.7% on June 24, from 4.9% a week earlier.
A genuine economic recovery is unlikely while coronavirus cases are still surging. Trump’s best chance of re-election is for the pandemic to have faded by November and the US to have made a strong economic recovery.
The US jobs report for May was much better than in April, but April was so terrible that a recovery still has a long way to go.
Can the Democrats retake Congress?
As well as the presidency, all 435 House of Representatives seats and one-third of the 100 senators are up for election in November.
Democrats gained control of the House in November 2018 and are very likely to retain control. They have a 7.9% lead in the FiveThirtyEight generic ballot tracker.
The Republicans currently have a 53-47 seat majority in the Senate, making it difficult for the Democrats to take control. The RealClearPolitics Senate map gives Democrats some chance of winning the Senate, projecting 48 Republican seats, 48 Democrats and four toss-ups.
House seats are allocated to each state on a population basis, but in the Senate, each state is guaranteed two seats regardless of population. As low-population states in the Midwest and West tend to be conservative, this makes it harder for Democrats to win the Senate.
The July 4 byelection in the highly marginal NSW Labor seat of Eden-Monaro is shaping up to be “very close”, according to participants in focus group research conducted by the University of Canberra.
Climate change, job creation, the federal government’s response to the bushfires, and health care were most frequently nominated when people were asked to choose, from a list of 13, the issue that would be extremely or very important in informing how they would vote.
Climate change was nominated by six of the 16, with job creation chosen by three, followed by the government’s response on bushfires and health care (each nominated by two people). The government’s response to COVID-19, support for tourism and action on the high cost of living received one nomination each.
Most participants believed the summer fires would have a negative impact for the Coalition, and that this might make a difference in a close election.
On Tuesday Scott Morrison campaigned in Bega, with a $86 million package for the forestry industry, wine producers and apple growers hit by the bushfires and the effects of COVID-19. While the money is not confined to Eden-Monaro, its target is winning votes there. Anthony Albanese visited the pre-poll booth in Queanbeyan.
The three online focus groups, totalling 16 participants, were conducted by Mark Evans and Max Halupka of the university’s Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis. People were drawn from various parts of what is a very diverse electorate. Two groups were done last week and the other on Monday. Participants included Coalition, Labor and Green supporters, with a mix of firmly aligned and swinging voters.
Participants were asked their voting intentions and their responses suggested a Labor victory. Swinging voters seemed to have moved to Labor but hard Coalition and Labor voters are remaining loyal.
But it should be stressed focus groups are not predictive of the result, but rather tap into attitudes at a point in the campaign.
Asked about management of the COVID-19 crisis, NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian was seen as the best performer, followed by Morrison and the Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy, who were equally regarded.
Albanese – who has campaigned extensively in Eden-Monaro – was seen as having a low profile throughout the pandemic crisis. In the words of one Labor swinging voter this was attributable to “his lack of a platform”. As another participant observed, “Crises are a great advantage for government”. Participants were luke warm about how good a job Albanese was doing in holding Morrison to account over the management of the COVID-19 crisis.
When asked who they listened to most when looking for guidance on COVID-19, people pointed to Norman Swan and the ABC.
Participants’ trust in Morrison has marginally increased as a result of his handling of COVID-19, but from a low level following the bushfire crisis. One man, a strong Coalition supporter, said the PM “needed to learn and has learned”.
A female Coalition swinging voter attributed Morrison’s improvement to “the national cabinet. He was given some good lessons in leadership and the group kept his tendencies under control.”
Discussing issues, people thought the federal government’s handling of the bushfire crisis suffered from poor federal leadership, inadequate preparation, and insufficient collaboration between federal and state governments.
Critics of the Morrison government’s handling of the fires included most of the hard Coalition voters – although it was not enough to change their vote.
There was also a perception the federal government had lost interest in the bushfire recovery process. “It makes sense to tackle the problem in front of you and that’s the virus,” said a Coalition supporter.
In the discussion, most participants saw a link between the bushfire crisis and the need for action on climate, and said their views on the importance of the climate issue had sharpened significantly over the past six months. There were some exceptions: “Older people don’t go with the mantra of climate change, though they know something is going on,” said a middle aged male Coalition voter.
Coalition voters were more focused on local issues – economic issues, better infrastructure and improved access to health care, education and transport. “The Coalition has the track record to get the economy back on track,” said one man.
People generally thought Australia was more resilient than most other countries to bounce back from the COVID-19 crisis. But they were worried about Australia’s economic vulnerability, particularly its dependence on China.
Participants wanted politicians to be more collaborative and less adversarial in a post-COVID-19 world and for experts to have a greater say in decision making. An older female Labor supporter said, “We need politicians to behave better and take community issues more seriously”, while a male Coalition voter opined, “we need more adult politics as the national cabinet has shown us”.
There was some concern the old politics would resume. “[The national cabinet] started well but it already seems to be falling apart,” said a hard-Labor voter.
In a field of 14 candidates, this is a Labor-Liberal battle, and both major parties are running female candidates with good local credentials. The Liberals’ Fiona Kotvojs, who pushed the former MP Mike Kelly close at the 2019 election, has a background in teaching, science, farming and small business; Labor’s Kristy McBain has most recently been mayor of Bega.
The focus group participants thought the two women were strong on credentials but low on having high constituency-wide profiles, suggesting voters would be likely to vote on party lines rather than for personalities.
But some participants noted the Liberals were spending a lot on Kotvojs’ campaign and predicted this was likely to increase in the time remaining.
Speaker Tony Smith has announced July 4 for the byelection in the Labor NSW seat of Eden-Monaro, which will be the first electoral test between Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese.
For health reasons this will coincide with the start of schools holidays, usually not thought ideal timing for elections or byelections.
Smith said in a Monday statement: “In normal circumstances, the Australian Electoral Commission advises it is preferable not to have elections during school holidays. With the current challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic, the advice is different on this occasion.”
Smith said the AEC had consulted extensively, including with the NSW education department, because of the number of polling places which were at schools.
“As a result, the AEC has advised me it is preferable to have a polling date where students and staff do not return to school on the very next Monday. This will then enable a thorough sanitising clean after the completion of voting and counting at polling booths in NSW schools”.
Smith also said he was delaying issuing the writ until Thursday to give the AEC extra time, which will enable it to consult stakeholders about the byelection’s conduct during this time.
Both the ALP and the Liberal party are fielding women candidates with strong roots in the electorate. The Liberals have just endorsed Fiona Kotvojs, a small businesswoman and farmer, who ran Labor’s Mike Kelly very close at the last election. The seat is now on a margin of just under 1%, and has become vacant with the resignation of Kelly on health grounds.
Albanese has already been campaigning extensively with Labor’s candidate Kristy McBain, who has stepped aside as mayor of Bega to contest the seat.
Both sides are putting jobs at the centre of their campaigns.
Morrison, appearing with Kotvojs on Sunday, said “job-making is honestly what this byelection is going to be about”.
The revelation that a wrong treasury forecast means JobKeeper will cost $60 billion less than the original $130 billion estimate has given Labor greater opportunity to campaign in the seat on that program, which it says should be broadened to a range of people now excluded. The government has rejected this.
The plight of the local tourist industry will also be a squeaky wheel in the campaign, as will bushfire recovery, with complaints about aid flowing too slowly. The royal commission into the fires is currently underway.
Labor will home in on climate change, in the context of the devastating summer experience.
Kotvojs went out of her way on Sunday “to make clear my position on climate change”.
“I believe that the climate is changing. I believe that humans contribute to that changing climate and I believe that we need to have a reduction in emissions, that we need to look at approaches to be adaptive and to have our communities resilient. … We’re on target to reducing emissions”.
Last year Kotvojs, who is a development specialist with experience working across the Pacific, wrote an article disputing that climate change was a threat to these countries with rising sea levels.
“The main cause of erosion on these islands is not sea level rise. Instead it is the construction of poorly designed boat ramps and boat channels, seawalls and reclamation works,” she wrote.
“The population of Tuvalu will be destroyed by diabetes long before the island is drowned by a rising sea level”.
The latest Newspoll, conducted May 13-16 from a sample of 1,500, gave the Coalition a 51-49 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition since the previous Newspoll, three weeks ago. Primary votes were 43% Coalition (up two), 35% Labor (down one), 10% Greens (down two) and 3% One Nation (down one). Newspoll figures are from The Australian.
Scott Morrison fell slightly from the best net approval for a PM since Kevin Rudd in 2009: 66% (down two) were satisfied with his performance, and 30% (up two) were dissatisfied, for a net approval of +36, down four points.
Anthony Albanese had a net approval of +7, down four points. Morrison led Albanese as better PM by 56-29 (56-28 previously).
In my previous Newspoll article, I wrote that it was abnormal to show a two party tie while the PM had a +40 net approval. While these measures are now in better agreement, there is still a large gap between the Coalition’s two party vote and what would be expected based on Morrison’s ratings.
A plausible explanation is that decisions on the coronavirus crisis are being made by the “national cabinet” that involves the premiers, three of which are Labor. As the section below shows, five of the six premiers beat Morrison’s +40 Newspoll net approval three weeks ago.
Involving the premiers in decision-making has made the decisions appear more bipartisan, and probably inhibited the Coalition’s voting intention gains.
In additional Newspoll questions, 72% were more concerned with moving too quickly to relax coronavirus restrictions, and just 24% were more concerned with moving too slowly.
Newspoll repeated coronavirus questions last asked six weeks ago. 78% were worried and 19% confident about the economic impact (84-14 worried previously). On preparedness of the public health system, it was 69-29 confident (57-41 worried previously). On public information, 80-18 confident (67-32 confident).
On these three issues, there was a solid rise in approval of federal and state governments’ management. On the economy, 60% were satisfied and 24% dissatisfied (47-33 satisfied previously). On the health system, 78-15 satisfied (59-28 satisfied previously). On public information, 82-13 satisfied (75-20 previously).
Premiers’ sky-high Newspoll ratings
The day after the April 27 federal Newspoll, approval ratings of the premiers were released. WA Labor Premier Mark McGowan had the highest ratings, with 89% satisfied and just 6% dissatisfied for a net approval of +83. This is likely a record high in any poll for any Australian prime minister or premier.
Tasmanian Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein was at 84% satisfied, 11% dissatisfied (net +73). Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews was at 75% satisfied, 17% dissatisfied (net +58). NSW Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian had 69% satisfied and 23% dissatisfied (net +46). SA Liberal Premier Steven Marshall had 68% satisfied and 21% dissatisfied (net +47).
Queensland Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who faces an election in October, performed worst of the premiers with 55% satisfied and 39% dissatisfied (net +16).
Samples for these state Newspolls were about 520 for each mainland state, plus 309 in Tasmania. Figures from The Poll Bludger.
Eden-Monaro seat poll: 51-49 to Labor
After Labor member Mike Kelly’s resignation, a byelection will be required in Eden-Monaro on a date to be advised. In 2019, Kelly held Eden-Monaro by just a 50.9-49.1 margin. That narrow margin and Kelly’s absent personal vote gives the Liberals some chance of gaining Eden-Monaro at the by-election.
As reported by The Poll Bludger, a uComms robopoll of Eden-Monaro, conducted for the left-wing Australia Institute, gave Labor a 51.1-48.9 lead. Primary votes were 39.8% Labor, 34.3% Liberal, 7.3% National, 6.7% Greens and 6.5% One Nation. The poll did not give candidate names, just parties.
Seat polls are unreliable, and there is a long time to go until the byelection.
Trump’s ratings recover despite terrible jobs report
This section is an updated version of an article I wrote for The Poll Bludger, published on Friday.
In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Donald Trump’s ratings with all polls are 44.0% approve, 51.7% disapprove (net -7.7%). With polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s ratings are 44.2% approve, 52.1% disapprove (net -7.9%). Since his lowest point of the coronavirus crisis, Trump has recovered about two points on net approval.
In the RealClearPolitics average of national polls, Joe Biden’s lead over Trump has fallen to 4.5%, down from 5.9% three weeks ago. There have been two recent polls of key swing states. Biden leads Trump by three points in a Wisconsin Marquette poll. The previous Marquette poll, in March, also had Biden leading by three. Biden leads Trump by six points in a recent Florida poll.
On May 12, byelections occurred in two federal House of Representatives seats. While the Republicans won by 57-43 in Wisconsin’s Seventh, this was positive for Democrats, as Trump won this district by over 20 points in 2016.
The Republicans’ win by a big 55-45 in California’s 25th is much worse for Democrats as the district voted for Hillary Clinton by almost seven points. This was the first gain of a Californian seat for Republicans since 1998. The 2016 presidential figures are from a Daily Kos downloadable spreadsheet.
During the 2016 campaign, whichever candidate drew the most attention would generally suffer in the polls. Clinton’s lead widened after Trump’s “grab em by the pussy”, but narrowed after her own “deplorables”, and when the FBI reopened its investigation into her emails.
Until recently, Trump was conducting daily coronavirus briefings. The media focus on these briefings may have contributed to his ratings slide. Recent media attention on Tara Reade’s sexual assault allegation against Biden from 1993 could have damaged him.
In the 2016 exit poll, those who disliked both Clinton and Trump voted for Trump by 17 points. CNN analyst Harry Enten says that in 2020, Biden is crushing with “double haters”, but Trump is crushing with those who do not dislike either candidate. In 2016, double haters were a larger portion of the electorate than now, while those who dislike neither candidate has grown.
There has been a recent decline in US coronavirus cases and deaths. If much of the economy can be reopened without a renewed surge in cases, that would be good news for Trump, enabling him to brag about a strong recovery before the November election. I cannot see Trump winning if the current terrible economic situation continues until the election.
A terrible US jobs report
The April jobs report was released on May 8. 20.5 million jobs were lost and the unemployment rate jumped 10.3% to 14.7%. That is the highest unemployment rate and the biggest one-month change in the history of this series. This data goes back to January 1948, so it does not include the Great Depression. The previous highs for unemployment were 10.8% in November 1982, and 10.0% in October 2009.
The employment population ratio – the percentage of eligible Americans that are employed – crashed 8.7% in April to just 51.3%, far lower than in the global financial crisis, during which the lowest employment ratio was 58.2% in June 2011. As the unemployment rate excludes those not participating in the workforce, I prefer the employment ratio as a summary statistic. In Australia’s April jobs report, the employment ratio was 59.6%, much higher than the US.
In January, before the current crisis, the US employment ratio was at 61.2%, the highest since November 2008.
The one positive in this jobs report was that hourly wages rose $US 1.34 to $US 30.01. But this was the result of so many low-income jobs being shed. The aggregate weekly payrolls (weekly wages times number employed) fell 10.9% in April.
Anthony Albanese, who will campaign in Eden-Monaro on Thursday, has lost any possible claim to “underdog” status in the coming byelection.
The idea of Labor as underdog was always dubious in light of history, despite former member Mike Kelly’s personal vote. But the prospect of one or other of two NSW government high flyers having a tilt at the seat gave it some credibility.
Now, thanks to a rolling implosion within the Coalition parties, Labor starts as favourite to retain the seat, which it holds on a margin of less than 1%.
There’s a sting, however. If the favourite lost, defeat would carry even more serious implications for Albanese than a loss to a star candidate.
NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance’s Wednesday withdrawal as a contender for Liberal preselection, a day after throwing his hat in the ring, took the Coalition parties’ shenanigans to an even higher level of farce.
The last several days have seen a political shootout between NSW Deputy Premier and Nationals leader John Barilaro and Constance. Both are damaged as well as a big blow having been dealt to the Morrison government’s aspiration to defy history (no federal government has taken a seat from an opposition at a byelection for a century).
It started with Barilaro’s plan to run for the seat, which includes his state electorate where he had a very strong vote last year.
Barilaro wanted the Liberal party to step aside for him, but that was not a goer. Then Constance, whom he hoped would support him, stayed in the frame as a potential Liberal candidate, even though it was clear the two NSW ministers couldn’t both run, especially given the state government’s narrow majority.
The Nationals put out research favouring Barilaro; the Liberals had competing research.
By Monday Barilaro had hoisted the white flag – of course citing the family.
He was furious – at federal Nationals leader Michael McCormack, for not helping him, and at Constance for impeding him.
A blistering text went to McCormack, leaked to Sky on Tuesday. On Wednesday the Daily Telegraph reported “Barilaro told a parliamentary colleague Mr Constance was a ‘c…’”.
Constance cited the story in his withdrawal.
He told a news conference: “Stuff that — I hadn’t signed up to contest federally to be called that type of smear.”
“Why would I sit here for the next five weeks defending that type of front page? You can’t.”
But he also said: “I don’t believe John means it. I had that discussion with him. We’ve cleared it up. I forgive him”.
In short, Constance was all over the place, and likely a mix of reasons caused his meltdown.
Despite a touch of wild speculation that Barilaro might rethink, he quickly dispelled any such suggestion, saying: “My decision not to seek preselection for the Eden-Monaro byelection has not changed”.
The other name on the government side who’d been mentioned, Liberal senator Jim Molan, also ruled himself out on Wednesday.
Molan never seemed likely to contest. But he issued a statement saying “no one has tried to force me to not nominate, nor was I ever intimidated by the prospect of competing in a preselection or in a campaign”.
The Liberals will be well behind Labor – which is running Bega mayor Kristy McBain – in beginning their campaigning.
Nominations for Liberal preselection close Friday and then they have to organise a rank and file ballot.
Fiona Kotvojs, who pushed Kelly close at last year’s election, is seeking endorsement.
Pru Gordon, from the National Farmers Federation, a former adviser to two trade ministers and a former official with the department of foreign affairs and trade, is also in the field. A third contender is Jerry Nockles, now at World Vision, who formerly worked for federal Liberals.
The Liberal candidate, whoever they may be, will inherit the legacy of a Coalition display of bad behaviour and self-absorption, which is not a good start when you are asking for votes in an electorate that’s faced drought and fire and now struggles to recover amid economic devastation.
The Eden-Monaro byelection has triggered an extraordinarily bitter attack by NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro on fellow National, deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack.
In a text message to McCormack, a furious Barilaro said, “You will never be acknowledged by me as our leader. You aren’t. You never will be”. He accused McCormack of feeling threatened by his (short-lived) bid to switch to federal politics.
After giving every indication last week he wanted to contest the byelection, Barilaro on Monday announced he would not be seeking nomination.
This followed his failure to get the Liberals to make way, allowing him to be the only Coalition candidate. But he is also blaming McCormack for undermining him.
McCormack was known to be unenthusiastic about the prospect – in the event of a win – of having the volatile Barilaro in his federal party.
This would have put more pressure on McCormack’s leadership, which pre-COVID was under strain after a failed bid to overthrow him by Barnaby Joyce.
Publicly McCormack, while careful with his words, noted that if Barilaro decided “to put his hand up, he’s got to go through the pre-selection process. That is always the case with every National Party member.”
On Tuesday NSW Liberal Transport minister, Andrew Constance, from the state seat of Bega, which takes in a substantial part of Eden-Monaro in the south, announced his bid and is certain to be the party’s candidate, although the Liberals still have a preselection open.
Constance will come to the byelection with the memory of his prominent role during the bushfires still fresh in the voters’ minds. At that time, he was sharply critical of Scott Morrison’s performance. But Morrison will be now be happy to have him as Liberal candidate, giving his local popularity.
In his vitriolic message, which was leaked to Sky, Barilaro said: “Michael. Please do not contact me. Your lack of public enthusiasm or support for my candidacy went a long way to my final decision.
“Don’t hide behind the ‘members will choose the candidate’ rubbish, as you were the only one saying such lines. Don’t you think my branches would have backed me in?
“To feel threatened by me clearly shows you have failed your team and failed as a leader.
“You will never be acknowledged by me as our leader. You aren’t. You never will be.
“The Nats had a chance to create history, to change momentum, and you had a candidate that was prepared to risk everything to make it happen.
“What did you risk? Nothing.
“Hope you are proud of yourself.”
In his Monday announcement Barilaro said: “The polling showed I could win but sometimes in this game, you let ego get in the way of good decisions and I’ve got to make the best decision for me, my family, for the people of NSW – more importantly for the people of Eden-Monaro”.
The Liberals argued Constance would have a better chance of taking the Labor seat than Balilaro, despite the fact the regional centre of Queanbeyan is in Barilaro’s state seat of Monaro, and he won every booth in his electorate at the NSW election last year.
Eden-Monaro became vacant because of the resignation of Labor’s Mike Kelly due to ill health. Labor has chosen Bega mayor Kristy McBain, who is considered a strong candidate.
The contest is seen as an important test for opposition leader Anthony Albanese.
Labor has history on its side – it is a century since a federal government took an opposition seat at a byelection.
In response to Barilaro’s attack, McCormack said he respected his “personal decision not to contest the Eden-Monaro by-election due to family reasons.
“I have always supported the democratic election processes of the National Party of Australia. I wholeheartedly endorse the right of branches to select their local candidates first and foremost.
“My support of Mr Barilaro has been long standing and I respect his position as Deputy Premier and New South Wales Nationals’ Leader.”