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Period Ending October 10, 2014

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

Senate

Senate Overall: This week’s overall picture suggests that Democrats or non-Republicans are now on the upswing in Kansas, North Carolina, and South Dakota, while two GOP challenger candidates are beginning to put distance between themselves and their Democratic incumbent opponents. Both in Alaska and Arkansas, conditions appear favorable for a pair of Republican victories. Georgia, thanks to some unforced errors from the GOP nominee, is now becoming a bit of a wild card for November.

Alaska: Polls in Alaska are few and far between, mainly because the state is difficult to survey; so new data from here is always welcome. Fox News (Anderson Robbins Research (D)/Shaw Company (R); 10/4-7; 706 AK likely voters) gives Republican former Attorney General Dan Sullivan a 44-40% edge over Sen. Mark Begich (D). The Alaska race appears to be trending Republican and now must be rated as pointing toward a Republican challenger winning.

Iowa: NBC/Marist College (released 10/6; 1,093 IA registered voters) confirmed the trend that finds state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) leading Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA-1) for the right to succeed retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D), in this case 46-44%.

Kansas: The polls are now across the board. Early in the week, NBC/Marist College (released 10/6; 1,097 KS registered voters) found Sen. Pat Roberts’ (R) badly trailing Independent Greg Orman, 38-48%. Closer to the end of this week, Survey USA (10/2-5; 549 KS likely voters) found Orman up 47-42%, and the CNN/ORC poll (10/2-6; 1,025 KS adults; 867 registered voters with 687 of them self-identifying as likely voters) actually gives Roberts a one-point 49-48% lead in the likely voter category, but trails 46-49% among registered voters. Therefore, even Roberts’ best polling performance still places him in grave jeopardy of losing his seat. But, the new Fox poll (Anderson Robbins Research (D)/Shaw Company (R); 10/4-7; 702 KS likely voters) reverses the trend. This poll finds Roberts ahead 44-39%.

Michigan: It appears the Republican campaign leadership believes all the polls showing Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI-14) beginning to pull substantially away from Republican nominee Terri Lynn Land, the former Secretary of State. The National Republican Senatorial Committee cancelled $850,000 worth of television time during the last two weeks of the campaign, which is clear signal that they don’t believe Land can reverse the campaign’s present course.

North Carolina: Sen. Kay Hagan (D) continues to confound normal North Carolina political trends. Usually, Republicans perform well there during a midterm election, and incumbent Senators normally fare very poorly in re-election bids. But, two more polls again find the Senator leading, albeit by smaller margins than others of late. Rasmussen Reports (10/6-7; 970 NC likely voters) finds Hagan holding a 48-46% edge over state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R). Suffolk University for USA Today, during virtually the same time period (10/4-7; 500 NC likely voters), finds an almost identical result. Suffolk also detects a two-point, high forties Hagan lead, 47-45%. NBC/Marist College, in a poll released October 6th (1,132 NC registered voters) finds the incumbent holding a 44-40% spread.

Sen. Kay Hagan (D) continues to confound normal North Carolina political trends. Usually, Republicans perform well there during a midterm election, and incumbent Senators normally fare very poorly in re-election bids. But, two more polls again find the Senator leading, albeit by smaller margins than others of late. Rasmussen Reports (10/6-7; 970 NC likely voters) finds Hagan holding a 48-46% edge over state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R). Suffolk University for USA Today, during virtually the same time period (10/4-7; 500 NC likely voters), finds an almost identical result. Suffolk also detects a two-point, high forties Hagan lead, 47-45%. NBC/Marist College, in a poll released October 6th (1,132 NC registered voters) finds the incumbent holding a 44-40% spread.: The Mount Rushmore State campaign has been relatively quiet so far. Ex-Gov. Mike Rounds (R), the presumed favorite, had been running a proficient effort, Democratic nominee Rick Weiland is literally visiting all of South Dakota’s 311 specific communities, and former GOP Sen. Larry Pressler, but running in this campaign as an Independent, is also making his presence felt. Now, things are exploding. Thanks to outside group spending that attacked Rounds over his handling of the EB-5 immigration/visa program, the Republican is on the defensive and it is the former Senator, with little campaign money to spend, who is making a charge.

The latest Survey USA poll (10/1-5; 616 SD likely voters) finds Rounds’ lead slipping to 35%. Pressler, who has been steadily gaining according to recent surveys from 6%, to 12%, to 17% to 25%, now reaches 32%. Meanwhile, Democrat Weiland remains at 28%, but has now dropped to third place. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which, heretofore, had been conceding the race, announced they will now spend $1 million in negative attacks against Rounds. The Mayday Super PAC, which wants to reverse the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that reinstated unlimited political speech from unconnected entities, is coming into South Dakota with its own million dollar expenditure, this time to support Weiland. Republicans need this race to come home for a shot at taking the majority, but the latest developments, for the first time, put the outcome in doubt.

House

AZ-1: The outside organization American Action Network released the findings of their North Star Opinion Research firm (released 10/3; 400 AZ-1 likely voters), a little known polling entity, which produced favorable results for the candidate they support. The data gives Republican challenger Andy Tobin, the Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, a 48-42% lead over Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D). Though the margin is surprising, the expansive eastern Arizona 1st District is prone to vote Republican in a midterm election, the hot immigration issue is likely to favor Tobin in this part of the country, and Kirkpatrick has previously failed in a re-election attempt. On the other hand, Tobin proved a weaker candidate than expected in the Republican primary election. The race is likely closer than this poll suggests, but there is no question that the AZ-1 campaign is a legitimate Republican conversion opportunity.

CA-52: Survey USA released another poll of the hotly contested congressional campaign between Rep. Scott Peters (D) and former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio (R). This race has flip-flopped in polling, with the last released S-USA data finding that Rep. Peters had reasserted a bare 47-46% lead. Now, S-USA finds Mr. DeMaio back on top, ahead 48-45%. Whichever party is best able to get their voters to the polls will win this campaign.

IA-1: The eastern Iowa campaign of businessman Rod Blum (R), who has been steadily gaining for awhile, now has produced an internal poll posting him to a slight 41-40% lead (The Polling Company for the Blum Campaign; 10/1-2; sample size not released) over state Rep. and former House Speaker Pat Murphy (D). The 1st District is considered a safe Democratic seat, particularly since redistricting added the liberal city of Cedar Rapids, but obviously Blum is becoming viable. This is a race worthy of attention.

KS-2: In a surprise result, the Democrats released an internal campaign poll (10/3-6; 400 KS-2 likely voters) from Anzalone-Liszt-Grove, a top Dem pollster, finds their candidate, local Democratic Party chair Margie Wakefield, trailing Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R) only 43-48%. The same poll shows this district, that includes the capital city of Topeka, is favoring state House Minority Leader Paul Davis (D) 52-41% in his race against Gov. Sam Brownback (R). If Davis hopes to win the Governor’s office, he must perform at this level in the 2nd CD. That being said, the Jenkins-Wakefield race might deserve more attention. It is difficult to see a losing scenario for the Congresswoman, but a closer re-election victory percentage for her could well be in the cards.

MA-9: The Emerson College Polling Society (see MA-Governor below for a fuller description of the group and their latest Massachusetts poll) has produced numbers not seen before. In a race on no one radar screen, the polling results give Republican John Chapman a 44-39% lead over Rep. Bill Keating (D). The only attention this race has received is one local newspaper article that highlighted Keating’s pleas for fundraising help, saying he needed the support because his challenger is credible. This may be the most under-the-radar House campaign to date.

MI-1: While Republicans cut television time in the Senate race, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee canceled their advertising in the 1st District of Michigan. So did a liberal Super PAC. This tells us that Rep. Dan Benishek (R), originally perceived to be highly vulnerable since he was re-elected in 2012 with only 48% of the vote, is much stronger this time around. Democrats had recruited former Army general Jerry Cannon, but his campaign has failed to ignite excitement and never ventured into the toss-up range.

Governor

Colorado: The Fox News polls (see Colorado Senate above) found the Governor’s race to be falling into a 42-42% deadlock between Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) and former Rep. Bob Beauprez (R-CO-7). This is more optimistic than most polls in favor of the Republican candidate, but there is no question that Hickenlooper is far from a safe bet for re-election.

Georgia: Insider Advantage, a Georgia-based Republican polling firm, tested their home state electorate (9/29-10/1; 947 GA likely voters) and again found a stubbornly close contest for Gov. Nathan Deal (R). According to this data, as has been the case with virtually every other poll, Mr. Deal leads state Sen. Jason Carter (D), the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, 44-43%.

Kansas: The aforementioned CNN/ORC Kansas poll (see Kansas Senate above) places Gov. Sam Brownback (R) in shouting distance of state House Minority Leader Paul Davis (D), finding the two candidates tied at 49% among likely voters while Davis leads in the registered voter segment, 49-46%. These numbers, as weak as they are for the incumbent, represents his best standing in weeks. But, the Fox News data (see KS Senate above) gives Brownback a big boost. It shows the Governor leading Mr. Davis 46-40%.

Massachusetts: The student-run Emerson College Polling Society came to some notoriety when they proved themselves the most accurate pollster in the Virginia Governor’s race of 2013. They correctly forecasted a two-point Terry McAuliffe (D) win, when virtually all others were showing the race to feature a much wider margin between the two candidates. The students are back again, this time in their home state of Massachusetts (released 10/8; 500 MA likely voters). Polling has been back and forth between Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) and businessman Charlie Baker (R), and the Emerson College effort comes squarely down in the Republican camp. They find Baker leading 45-39%, which is his largest lead to date.

New Mexico: Republican pollster Gravis Marketing (9/27-10/1; 727 NM likely voters) posts Gov. Susana Martinez (R) to a surprisingly small 48-44% advantage over Attorney General Gary King (D). Most polling has shown the Governor pulling away to a small double-digit lead, especially with King experiencing major fundraising problems. This poll could be an anomaly, but the race probably merits further attention in order to make sure. Gov. Martinez is a likely winner, but a big re-election percentage would help her nationally. She will be a top contender for Vice President, no matter who becomes the 2016 Republican presidential nominee.