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Period Ending October 16, 2020

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

President

Maine: The Pan Atlantic Research company polled the state of Maine, giving us the statewide count and results from the 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts. Maine is one of two states that split their electoral votes, meaning that candidates can earn an EV for carrying a federal district. In 2016, though Hillary Clinton clinched the state, President Trump won the 2nd District and that provided him an extra national vote. It appears he will need the 2nd District again.

According to the Pan Atlantic data (10/2-6; 600 ME likely voters; online), former Vice President Joe Biden's statewide lead over President Trump is 50-40%, which is similar to what other pollsters have detected. In the Democratic First Congressional District (300 ME likely voters), the Biden lead is 17 points, 54-37%. In the more conservative northern 2nd Congressional District (300 ME likely voters), Mr. Biden still leads, but the margin is only 47-43%. Considering that none of the three polls released here in 2016 ever showed Mr. Trump leading, and he would eventually win the 2nd by ten percentage points, a four-point deficit at this point is not a particularly daunting margin.

Fox Poll: In attempting to quantify the actual vote, pollsters are using different methods to determine if a "shy Trump voter" actually exists. That is, people who are voting for President Trump, but won't say so. The idea at least partly explains why pollsters missed many states, particularly in the Great Lakes region, back in 2016.

The new Fox News Poll (10/3-6; 1,107 US registered voters; 1,012 likely voters; live interview) finds former Vice President Joe Biden leading President Trump, 53-43%, on the national count, but when asked about who the respondents believe their neighbors are supporting, the numbers substantially change. Here, by a 48-39% margin, the respondents said they believe their neighbors are voting for President Trump. Many analysts believe the responses more accurately reflect the individual respondent's actual beliefs. The neighbors spread represents a net 6-point swing on that question in President Trump's favor from the Fox News August poll.

Senate

Arkansas: The first and only poll released for the Arkansas Senate race is now public, and the results are surprising. The main reason this race has attracted no national attention is because Sen. Tom Cotton (R) doesn't have Democratic opposition. Only Libertarian Party member Ricky Harrington and Independent Dan Whitfield appear on the ballot opposite Sen. Cotton.

The American Research Group survey (10/7-9; 600 AR likely voters; live interview) finds the Senator leading Mr. Harrington, 49-38%, which appears low considering he has no major party opposition. Or, such a number could be a better reflection of the aforementioned "shy Trump (Republican) voter", meaning the GOP candidates are consistently under-polling. It is highly likely that Sen. Cotton's re-election percentage will exceed what this survey is projecting.

Georgia A & B: The School of Public & International Affairs at the University of Georgia, the regular pollster for the Atlanta Journal & Constitution newspaper (9/27-10/6; 1,106 GA likely voters; live interview), finds a change in one of the state's Senate races and a solidification for the other.

In the Georgia-A seat for the regular six-year term, Sen. David Perdue (R) has now expanded what was a tenuous lead over Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff. The results find Sen. Perdue leading with his largest margin, eight percentage points, 49-41%. The survey also finds Democrat Raphael Warnock, the pastor at Dr. Martin Luther King's former Ebenezer Baptist in Atlanta, potentially locking down first place in the jungle primary, but nowhere near the 50% mark to claim the seat. The totals find Rev. Warnock recording 28% support, with appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) and Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) following with 22 and 21%, respectively.

Two other pollsters, Landmark Communications and Public Policy Polling, see things a bit differently. Landmark (10/7; 600 GA likely voters) projects Sen. Perdue to be leading, 47-45% in the A-seat, while Rev. Warnock has a stronger 36-26-23% advantage over Sen. Loeffler and Rep. Collins. PPP (10/8-9; 528 GA voters) finds Democratic nominee Jon Ossoff with a one-point, 44-43% edge in Senate-A, while Rev. Warnock's lead is an even larger 41-24-22% over Sen. Loeffler and Rep. Collins.

North Carolina: The Morning Consult research firm conducted a series of US Senate polls around the country (10/2-11; 1,993 NC likely voters; online through a pre-selected sampling universe) and tested the North Carolina race. Their results find Democratic nominee Cal Cunningham still leading Sen. Thom Tillis (R), 47-41%, which largely tracks with Monmouth University's registered voter results (10/8-11; 500 NC likely voters; live interview) that project a 48-44% Cunningham edge. The Ipsos firm (10/7-13; 660 NC likely voters; online) also finds a four-point spread, 46-42 percent.

The Civiqs organization, later in the week and polling for the Daily Kos Elections site (10/11-14; 1,211 NC likely voters; online) projects Mr. Cunningham to a six-point, 51-45%, advantage. Emerson College (10/13-14; 711 NC likely voters; interactive voice response system), however, sees a much tighter affair. Their ballot test result finds that Cunningham's lead is a bare 45-44%.

South Carolina: Early this week, we reported on a South Carolina Senate poll that found incumbent Lindsey Graham (R) taking as much as a six-point lead for the first time since July. The Morning Consult (10/2-11; 903 NC likely voters; online through a pre-selected sampling universe) survey found Sen. Graham claiming a 48-42% lead over former South Carolina Democratic Party chair Jaime Harrison who has raised an incredible $80+ million for his campaign. Then, Data for Progress countered with their survey (10/8-11; 801 SC likely voters; online) returning the race to a one-point contest, 47-46%, this time in Mr. Harrison's favor.

Yesterday, however, we see a confirmation of the six-point margin, this time from Siena College/New York Times, an A+ rated pollster according to the FiveThirtyEight statistical site. Siena/NYT (10/9-15; 605 SC likely voters; live interview) delivers a 46-40% split in Sen. Graham's favor, similar to Morning Consult's spread.

Texas: Sen. John Cornyn (R) received a break within the last few days and has immediately turned the development into a media ad intended for the black community. Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) announced that he will not vote for Democratic Senate nominee M.J. Hegar, who defeated him in the statewide runoff election, 52-48%. He particularly pointed out that Ms. Hegar doesn't mesh with the black community, and Mr. Cornyn is wasting no time taking advantage of Sen. West's statements. The Morning Consult series poll (10/2-11; 3,455 TX likely voters; online through a pre-selected sampling universe) finds Sen. Cornyn now holding a 47-38% lead, which is consistent with some of the most recent polling.

House

FL-16: Two research studies that produced very different results were just posted in the Sarasota anchored district from southwest Florida. The poll from Democratic nominee Margaret Good, a Sarasota area state Representative, via Change Research (10/5-8; 527 FL-16 likely voters; online & text), gives Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Sarasota) only a 48-45% edge.

The Congressman's internal poll, however, from the Data Targeting firm taken at virtually the same time but conducted with live interviews (10/6-8; 403 FL-16 likely voters), projects Mr. Buchanan to a 52-37% advantage. Therefore, these two internal polls yield wildly different results. The 16th District is a 54-43% Trump 2016 domain. Mr. Buchanan has averaged 59.0% in his six re-election efforts.

IL-13: A new Tulchin Research survey for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (10/1-6; 400 IL-13 likely voters; live interview) shows Democratic challenger Betsy Dirksen Londrigan pulling ahead of Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) in a re-match of their 2018 campaign that was decided by just 2,058 votes of 270,981 ballots cast. The Tulchin data gives Ms. Londrigan a 47-43% lead over Congressman Davis, which bumps to 48-43% when those leaning her way are added.

MN-2: When Legal Marijuana Now party congressional nominee Adam Weeks suddenly passed away two weeks ago, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon (DFL) invoked the state's law that forces an election to be postponed for three months if a major party candidate dies within 79 days of the election. Rep. Angie Craig (D-Eagan) filed suit asking the law be suspended and the 2nd District Congressional District be re-admitted to the November 3rd regular election cycle. Republican nominee Tyler Kistner did not object to the suit, and both candidates were proceeding as if the vote would be November 3rd. A federal judge granted Ms. Craig's motion, and the 2nd District again rejoins the regular election cycle.

NH-2: The state of New Hampshire has swung more wildly than any other during this 21st Century. Therefore, a close poll in one of the congressional districts, though eyebrow raising, is not altogether out of character for this politically volatile upper New England region. The University of New Hampshire polled the state and found a developing close race in the state's 2nd CD, or the western district of the Granite State's pair of districts.

According to UNH (10/9-12; 410 NH-2 likely voters; online), Rep. Annie Kuster (D-Hopkinton/ Nashua) leads former state Representative and 2018 congressional nominee Steve Negron (R) by only a 49-45% margin. Even if this poll is correct, it is unlikely the GOP can take advantage of the race status. Mr. Negron only had approximately $43,000 cash-on-hand through September 30th. Though her September report is not yet available, the Kuster pre-primary, August 19th, disclosure showed the Congresswoman with more than $2.4 million in the bank. The resource advantage here, in a state where political fundraising and spending is generally low, should be regarded as the clinching factor for Rep. Kuster.

NY-24: Steve Williams is the nominee of the Working Families Party in the Syracuse anchored 24th District of New York who wants to come off the ballot. For the second time, a court has said no. Mr. Williams won the minor party nomination but now supports Democratic nominee Dana Balter and attempted to withdraw from the campaign. Republicans challenged his move saying it was improper and the district court judge agreed. Ms. Balter, the plaintiff in the case, then appealed, and now she has lost again. Therefore, without the state Supreme Court taking immediate action, Mr. Williams will remain on the November ballot.

TX-22: Democratic pollster GBAO went into the field in this southeast Texas suburban CD during the October 8-11 period and interviewed 500 TX-22 likely voters. They find that 2018 Democratic nominee Sri Preston Kulkarni holds a five-point, 48-43%, lead in a race where he dominates the money war. Waiting to see the September 30th financial disclosure report, Mr. Kulkarni had already raised $2.5 million through the June 30th period. Sheriff Troy Nehls (R) is not a strong fundraiser. His September 30th report is published, and his total campaign receipts line only shows $517,000 with less than $30,000 cash-on-hand. Such numbers suggest that Nehls will not be competitive in the final days, thus Mr. Kulkarni is the favorite in this race.

VA-5: Though Virginia's 5th District is reliably Republican, the general election is again showing signs of becoming a toss-up election. This, after GOP incumbent Denver Riggleman (R-Manassas) was ousted in a party convention. Now, a Global Strategy Group survey for the Cameron Webb campaign (9/27-10/1; 500 VA-5 likely voters; live interview), finds the Democratic nominee, a local Charlottesville physician, taking a small lead over Campbell County Supervisor Bob Good (R), 45-42%. This is definitely a situation where chaos and controversy in the nomination process could cost a party the general election.

Governor

North Carolina: A federal court judge in North Carolina ruled on an election procedure challenge lawsuit on Friday. While not agreeing to lessen the absentee ballot requirements even further, as the plaintiffs were requesting, he did extend the post-election ballot reception period even beyond the November 6th deadline. Now, ballots can still be received and counted as long as they are received by November 12th, meaning nine full days after the election.