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Period Ending January 22, 2016

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This weekly roundup of election news and notes is compiled for Thompson Coburn by the The Ellis Insight.

President

Re-cap: Now approaching the final two weeks before the first votes are cast in the Iowa Caucuses on February 1, we see tight campaigns developing in each party. Hillary Clinton maintains an advantage over Sen. Bernie Sanders in Iowa polling, but the Vermont Senator is in striking distance of scoring an upset. For Republicans, it appears that Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) will fight it out for first place. The campaign then moves to New Hampshire on February 9 where Sanders continues to lead Clinton and could well score a Democratic victory, while Trump looks to be secure in first place among Republicans.

The week past was more one of endorsements than polls. The big news is former Alaska Governor and Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s announced support of Mr. Trump just prior to the Iowa Caucuses. Simultaneously, the state’s Governor, Terry Branstad (R) a supporter of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), lambasted Cruz in a negative endorsement saying the Texas Senator “would be very damaging to our state.” Cruz responded weakly.

Elsewhere, California businessman Rocky De La Fuente (D) has managed to qualify for the Democratic presidential ballot in 23 states to date, something ex-Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-MD) has failed to do. In fact, De La Fuente earned placement on the important Ohio ballot, but O’Malley did not.

Senate

Florida: Florida Atlantic University (1/15-18; 1,108 FL registered voters; 345 FL likely Republican voters; 371 FL likely Democratic primary voters) released their most recent survey and arrived at an improbable conclusion. Despite nothing happening to move votes in a significant manner, Rep. David Jolly (R-FL-13) jumped out to a 28-8-8% advantage over Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL-6) and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera (R) in the open Senate primary. For the Democrats, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL-9) held a 27-20% edge over Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18), which is consistent with other polling. Previously, the Republican race featured all candidates below 20% separated by only a few cumulative points. The open Florida race, the winner of which will replace outgoing Sen. Marco Rubio (R), could possibly be determinative regarding which party will either maintain or obtain Senate control next year.

Indiana: John Dickerson (D), a non-profit organization executive, dropped his bid for the open Democratic Senatorial nomination. The move means that former Rep. Baron Hill (D-IN-9) will be effectively unopposed for the upcoming campaign. Despite having the inside track for the party nomination, Hill will be regarded as a decided underdog against the eventual Republican nominee. Sen. Dan Coats (R) is retiring. Reps. Todd Young (R-IN-9) and Marlin Stutzman (R-IN-3) are the leading GOP candidates.

Maryland: Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies released a new Maryland poll of the Democratic Senate primary (1/11-16; 402 MD Democratic primary voters) scheduled for April 26. The data again reveals a close race between Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8) and Donna Edwards (D-MD-4). In this instance, Van Hollen claims a 38-36% lead over Edwards, which means a virtual tie. Edwards has a 65-15% edge with African Americans, which could be the deciding constituency in this primary. To win, however, Edwards will have to expand this margin.

North Carolina: A new Public Policy Polling survey (1/18-19; 948 NC registered voters) finds Sen. Richard Burr (R) again leading all of his opponents. Against the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s (DSCC) favored candidate, former state Rep. Deborah Ross, Sen. Burr has opened up a 43-33% advantage. If Spring Lake Mayor Chris Rey were the Democratic nominee, Burr’s margin would be 44-32%. And, opposite businessman Kevin Griffin, the ballot test finds Burr dropping to a 42-35% lead. Democrats failed at their candidate recruitment effort in this state, and Sen. Burr figures to grow stronger as the campaign progresses. Democrats will choose a nominee in their March 15 primary.

House

NE-2: In what will be a highly competitive general election campaign featuring freshman Rep. Brad Ashford (D-Omaha), Remington Research released a poll of the Republican congressional primary (dates and sample size not available). According to published reports, former state Senator and Douglas County Commissioner Chip Maxwell leads retired Air Force General Don Bacon, 31-10%. Rep. Ashford unseated Rep. Lee Terry (R-Omaha) in the 2014 election, one of two Democratic challengers nationally to unseat a Republican incumbent. This district will also receive increased presidential attention since Nebraska splits its Electoral Votes and President Obama carried the seat, and its one vote, in 2008 despite losing the state.

NY-19: Local Democratic Party county chairs have settled upon Fordham University law professor Zephyr Teachout (D) as their favored candidate in the upcoming open congressional race. Rep. Chris Gibson (R-Kinderhook) is retiring ostensibly to organize a 2018 campaign for Governor. The seat could be marginal in the general election though early local polling suggests Hillary Clinton’s standing in the district is weaker than expected for a former New York Senator. Teachout challenged Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the 2014 gubernatorial primary and held him to a 63-33% re-nomination victory. Republicans are expected to coalesce around former state Assembly Minority Leader John Faso, who was the party’s 2006 gubernatorial nominee. This will be a race to watch in November.

NY-22: The Democrats’ top choice for the open Upstate seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Richard Hanna (R-Barneveld) is not going to enter the race. State Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi (D) announced that he will not run for Congress in 2016. Broome County legislator Kim Myers (D) is a potential candidate. Former Oneida legislator David Gordon (D) is already in the race, but the party leadership reportedly wants a more liberal nominee. Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, who challenged Rep. Hanna in the 2014 Republican primary, is already announced as is former Broome County legislator George Phillips. Other Republicans are soon expected to become candidates. This is likely to be a competitive general election open seat.

VA-2: Retiring Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Virginia Beach), who publicly expressed a desire for former state Sen. Jeff McWaters (R) to succeed him before the latter declined to run, is now telling Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Chesapeake), whose 4th District will become highly Democratic if the new court ordered redistricting lines take effect for 2016, to jump into what will be an open 2nd District. If the court plan takes hold, the new 2nd will become much more strongly Republican. Rep. Forbes, however, has never represented any portion of what would become the new 2nd District. State Delegate Scott Taylor (R) has already announced his candidacy. Much is undecided in southeast Virginia politics and will continue to be so until the Supreme Court makes their anticipated redistricting rulings relating to the Virginia map.

Governor

Montana: Wealthy businessman Greg Gianforte (R) converted his gubernatorial exploratory committee into an official candidate committee. Gianforte, if successful in winning the Republican nomination, will challenge first-term Gov. Steve Bullock (D). The race will be competitive, but Gov. Bullock will certainly be regarded as the favorite even in a state that will almost assuredly back the Republican presidential nominee against presumed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton (D).

North Carolina: The aforementioned Public Policy Polling survey (see North Carolina Senate above) also tested the upcoming Governor’s campaign. Here again, we see Gov. Pat McCrory (R) with weak job approval ratings, 35:48% positive to negative, but the sample contains a slight Democratic skew. The ballot test again projects a very close race between McCrory and Attorney General Roy Cooper (D). The latest numbers find the Democratic challenger leading the incumbent Governor 43-40%.