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Period Ending October 23, 2015

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

President

Vice President Biden: The Democratic nomination was virtually clinched this week when Mr. Biden announced that he will not enter the presidential campaign. Saying his “window of opportunity had closed,” the Biden decision eliminates former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s most formidable potential opponent. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) has the ability to score against her in the Northeast, but he is getting very little support in the South and almost none within the African American community. These two factors, and her strength with the 1,200 Super Delegates, should be enough to award the former First Lady and US Senator the Democratic nomination.

Jim Webb (D): Former Virginia Sen. Webb also dropped from contention, coming to the clear conclusion that he cannot win the Democratic nomination. He is leaving the door open to qualify as an Independent candidate in the general election, but he is likely to be a non-factor when we enter the general election campaign even if he manages to qualify for the ballot in all 50 states, which is no easy feat.

Polls: Now that Vice President Biden is out of consideration, future polls will give us a strong picture of where the Democratic race is headed. Expect them to portend that Hillary Clinton is the prohibitive favorite for the party nomination. On the Republican side, Quinnipiac University released a survey (10/14-20; 574 likely IA Republican Caucus attenders) that finds Dr. Ben Carson overtaking Donald Trump in the important state of Iowa. According to the data, Carson now leads Trump 28-20%, with Sen. Marco Rubio placing third at 13%, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz also finding double-digits at 10%. Wisconsin reported a survey with similar results. According to the Norbert College Strategic Institute, polling for the local Wisconsin NPR radio network, (10/14-17; 600 WI state residents without delineating the number of Republican primary voters were sampled), Dr. Carson has a 20-18-18-10% lead in that state over Sen. Rubio, Mr. Trump, and Sen. Cruz, respectively. The polling sample is questionable, so the results must be viewed skeptically.

Senate

Maryland: The Washington Post and University of Maryland partnered to survey the Free State electorate (10/8-11; 1,006 MD adults) and though there is no disclosure about the size of the Democratic primary voter segment within the sample, Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD-4) fares well. According to the published release, Edwards leads fellow Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8) 38-28%, despite being behind more than 4:1 in readily available campaign cash. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD-7) still polls best, leading his two colleagues 33-20-20%, but it has now become clear that he will not enter the race. The Democratic nominee will be the prohibitive favorite to keep the seat under party control. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) is retiring.

New Hampshire: A new Public Policy Polling survey (10/16-18; 880 NH registered voters) continues to report a very tight Senate contest between incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) and Gov. Maggie Hassan (D). According to this data, Hassan takes a one-point, 44-43%, lead over Sen. Ayotte. The New Hampshire race will go right down to the wire, and it is likely that whichever party captures the presidential contest here has a strong opportunity of sweeping in their Senate candidate as a bonus.

Wisconsin: Norbert College’s Strategic Research Institute ran a statewide survey (10/14-17; 603 WI registered voters) and found former US Sen. Russ Feingold (D) leading incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson (R), 51-40%. Though the challenger has a large lead, it is consistent with other similar surveys. Sen. Johnson’s approval ratio is 38:39% positive to negative. Mr. Feingold’s favorability index was not tested.

House

House Leadership: Ways & Means Committee chairman and former Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) appears on the verge of claiming enough votes to be elected Speaker. The Republican Conference vote is October 28, with floor action scheduled for the day after. It is this time period that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH-8) has targeted for his resignation. Apparently, enough of the Conference’s disparate factions are willing to support Ryan in sufficient numbers that he will carry the floor vote.

FL-7: Quelling speculation that Rep. John Mica (R) could seek re-election from the neighboring and more Republican 6th District under the new redistricting plan that will soon become official, the Congressman says he will stay put in his 7th District. The addition of the city of Sanford to his central Florida seat makes the CD about 50/50 in terms of partisan split. The northeastern 6th District that hugs the Atlantic coast from Daytona through Volusia County scored 52% for Mitt Romney in 2012. Despite the increase in Democratic vote, Rep. Mica will be favored to win re-election.

FL-13: As expected, former Gov. Charlie Crist (D), who has lost elections as a Republican, Independent, and a Democrat, announced that he will run in the newly constructed Tampa Bay area 13th District. Now that the seat includes the city of St. Petersburg, Crist’s home, the 13th becomes strongly Democratic. Current incumbent David Jolly (R) has already announced his plans to run for the Senate. He did personally come to the Crist public announcement event, however, to express his opposition to the ex-Governor. Former Defense Department official Eric Lynn is also seeking the party nomination, and Democratic St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman quickly endorsed Lynn after the Crist announcement. Former Republican St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker is a potential GOP candidate. Polling shows a Crist-Baker campaign would be close, despite the new Democratic edge in the district.

IL-8: Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, polling for candidate Deb Bullwinkel, a local Democratic Mayor, finds a close contest in the open 8th District primary. According to their survey (10/8-11; 400 IL-8 likely Democratic primary voters), state Sen. Mike Noland has a 29-22-8% early advantage over former Deputy state Treasurer and congressional candidate Raja Krishnamoorthi, and Bullwinkel, respectively. The Democratic nominee will have the inside track for the November general election. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D) is running for the Senate.

IA-1: Cedar Rapids Councilwoman Monica Vernon (D) released a Democratic primary poll of her race against 2014 congressional nominee Patrick Murphy (D). Her internal Anzalone Liszt Grove Research poll (10/5-8; 400 IA-1 Democratic likely primary voters) finds her holding a slight 40-38% lead over Murphy. Many Democratic leaders and leftward political organizations are supporting Vernon because Murphy lost what should have been an easy Democratic win to now-Rep. Rod Blum (R-Dubuque) last year.

KY-1: Scott Jennings (R), a former Bush Administration staff member who appeared on track to announce his congressional candidacy, will not run for the House in 2016. He is yielding to Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who barely lost the Republican gubernatorial nomination earlier this year. Rep. Ed Whitfield (R) is retiring. The eventual Republican nominee, probably Comer, will hold the seat for the GOP.

NY-13: Former Democratic National Committee Political Director Clyde Williams has again announced his congressional candidacy. He joined the field opposing Rep. Charlie Rangel (D) in 2012, but failed to even reach 10% of the vote. Now an open seat, the Democratic primary will determine the next Congressman. Aside from Williams, state Sen. Bill Perkins is in the race, along with former Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, state Assemblyman Keith Wright, and former Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook. State Sen. Adriano Espaillat (D), who twice came close to defeating Rangel, remains a possible candidate.

TX-27: Tea Party activist John Harrington (R) has already ended his campaign against scandal-tainted Rep. Blake Farenthold (R) in the sprawling southeast Texas 27th District. Farenthold still faces Republican primary challenges from retired Marine officer Greg Deeb, and former Corpus Christi Mayoral candidate Dan McQueen. Former state Rep. Solomon Ortiz, Jr. son of ex-Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-TX-27), the latter man Mr. Farenthold unseated by 775 votes in 2010, is a potential Democratic candidate.

Governor

Kentucky: After indicating that they were abandoning Republican nominee Matt Bevin, the Republican Governors’ Association (RGA) has purchased a $1.6 million ad buy to support his campaign down the stretch. Despite a poorly run Bevin effort, which is why the RGA was making comments related to leaving Kentucky, Bevin continues to poll within the margin of error against Attorney General Jack Conway, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate. With the race too close to call, the RGA is now forced to do whatever it can to help pull Bevin across the finish line.

Louisiana: Saturday is Election Day in Louisiana, and Sen. David Vitter (R) continues to find himself trailing Democrat John Bel Edwards in all of the jungle primary polls. A large part of the reason is that the GOP vote is split among three candidates, Vitter, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne. Additionally, the repeated attacks upon the Senator have certainly reduced his support total. It is likely that Edwards will finish first tomorrow, uniting the Democratic vote, while Vitter takes second place. The two will then advance to the November 21 general election, with Angelle and Dardenne dropping off the ballot. Should this be the case, the attacks upon Vitter will intensify, causing the Republicans to unload upon Edwards. We can expect a very negative general election campaign. Should Vitter be elected Governor, he will appoint his own successor to the US Senate seat.