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Period Ending October 28, 2016

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

President

The presidential campaign is, of course, winding down and it appears Hillary Clinton is headed for victory. Donald Trump, however, may be making gains in some critical states such as Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Nevada. But even if he were to sweep the aforementioned the Republican nominee would still be short of the electoral votes needed to score a national victory. Therefore, it now appears that Trump’s best-case scenario is a close loss.

Early voting statistics are being released and they show increased participation in three of four states where returned ballot data have been publicized: Arizona, Florida, and Nevada. The Iowa numbers are running behind the 2012 progression. Both parties are spinning the stats as favorable to their side. In reality, since more states employ early voting procedures, and clearly more people from both parties will be taking greater advantage of the available system, it is difficult to draw viable conclusions as to whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is benefitting the most from the early voting programs. It is also difficult to tell, at this point, how many people voting early would not have done so through the conventional system.

Senate

Arizona: Monmouth University (10/21-24; 401 AZ likely voters) tested the Grand Canyon State electorate and found Sen. John McCain (R) expanding his previous lead to 50-40% over Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff). With the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) canceling their media buys for the rest of the campaign, this race is virtually conceded to McCain. The same polling sample posts Donald Trump to the slightest of advantages, 46-45% over Hillary Clinton.

Florida: Bloomberg Politics (10/21-24; 953 FL likely voters) turns in Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R) best poll of the election cycle, a 51-41% posting over Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter). Survey USA (10/20-24; 1,251 FL likely voters) found a lesser Rubio lead, 45-41%. Rubio has led or is tied in 33 consecutive Florida polls, but the Survey USA spread is closer to Rubio’s average lead of 5.5 percentage points.

Indiana: Republican pollster Gravis Marketing (10/22-24; 596 IN likely voters) again finds the US Senate race becoming more competitive. Former Sen. Evan Bayh (D) again is posted to an advantage over Rep. Todd Young (R-Bloomington), but this time the edge is only two points, 39-37%.

Louisiana: The Bayou State has a unique electoral system, as we have mentioned before. Using the jungle primary system, the state’s primary vote is concurrent with the general election. That way, they can continue their tradition of holding just one election for most of their offices. With all candidates on the same ballot, if any one individual scores a majority vote in any race, that person is elected outright. The open Senate race is one campaign that will definitely be forced to a December 10 run-off election.

Vying for the two qualifying spots are five of the 24 candidates on the ballot. A Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey for the Fox 8 affiliate in New Orleans found state Treasurer John Kennedy (R) re-assuming the lead (24%) followed by Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell (19%). Democrat Caroline Fayard is third with 12%, with Reps. Charles Boustany (R-Fayette) and John Fleming (R-Minden/ Shreveport) at 11 and 10%, respectively. Therefore, virtually any combination of the five could advance on November 8.

Nevada: Rasmussen Reports (10/20-22; 826 NV likely voters) finds Democratic former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto leading Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson), 43-41%. Heck has been leading most of the year, but the race has trended toward Masto just as Hillary Clinton began opening up a lead in the Silver State. But, a NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist College survey (10/20-24; 707 NV likely voters) draws a completely different conclusion. This poll finds Rep. Heck pulling away to a 49-42% advantage. This race is of critical importance to Republicans because Nevada is the only state they can realistically expect to take from the Democrats. The GOP winning here would give them a much stronger chance to hold the Senate majority.

New Hampshire: UMass/YouGov (10/17-21; 848 NH adults; 772 NH likely voters) conducted a New Hampshire Senate poll and found Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) taking a 46-43% lead over Gov. Maggie Hassan (D). The lead expands to 48-44% when “leaners” are included. New Hampshire has no early voting system so this race will go through in its entirety to Election Day, November 8. As we have stated repeatedly about this campaign, the contest has polled as a virtual tie for the entire year. Monmouth University (10/22-25; 401 NH likely voters) projects a 46-46% tie between the two candidates. NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist College sees Sen. Ayotte clinging to a 48-47% margin.

North Carolina: Sen. Richard Burr (R) has been running ahead in the last four consecutive polls and eight of the last nine, but finds himself trailing once again according to the New York Times/Siena College survey (10/20-23; 792 NC likely voters). The Senator drops behind former state Rep. Deborah Ross (D) by a 46-47% split, but does much better than any other Republican polled in the companion statewide races. Since this poll suggests a different trend than the others conducted in a similar time frame, anomaly potential is present.

Wisconsin: Former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) has just about put his challenge to first-term Sen. Ron Johnson (R) to bed. The latest Monmouth University poll (10/15-18; 403 WI likely voters) finds Feingold climbing back to an eight-point lead, 52-44%. The previous polls had shown a tightening, but now Feingold is back to a commanding position.

House

FL-7: A Global Strategy Group survey, in conjunction with Lester & Associates released their October 13-15 survey of 400 likely voters in Florida’s 7th District. The seat was fundamentally changed in the mid-decade court-ordered redistricting and is now a 50/50 district between Democrats and Republicans. With this background, the GSG/LA poll finds Democratic challenger Stephanie Murphy leading veteran Rep. John Mica (R-Winter Park), 48-45%. Both parties are now investing heavily in this district and will continue to do so through Election Day. This is another key opportunity race for Democrats and a must-hold for the GOP.

IN-9: The open 9th District should be a Republican seat, but the GOP candidate is having trouble nailing it down. This is largely because he moved to the district from Tennessee just a month before candidate filing concluded. A new Normington Petts poll taken for the liberal House Majority PAC (10/12-13; 400 IN-9 registered voters) finds the Republicans have reason for concern and Democrats hopeful for a sleeper conversion opportunity. The ballot test data finds Republican Trey Hollingsworth leading Democrat Shelli Yoder by only a 40-38% margin.

MN-8: Survey USA (10/16-19; 650 MN-8 registered voters) released a new poll of the Iron Range congressional district, and the results are surprising. In a re-match of a 2014 campaign that was decided by less than one percentage point, the S-USA data finds challenger Stewart Mills (R) leading Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Crosby/Duluth) by a 45-41% margin. Though this district is heavily Democratic, the mining and mineral extraction issues are dominant. Therefore, Donald Trump leads here by an even bigger margin than Mills, 47-35%.

NE-2: In a potential GOP conversion race, a new North Star Opinion Research survey (10/22-24; sampling group size not released) finds GOP retired Air Force General Don Bacon now leading freshman Rep. Brad Ashford (D-Omaha), 48-44%. Prior to Ashford winning in 2014, the seat had been in Republican hands for eight consecutive terms in the person of former Rep. Lee Terry (R-Omaha).

NY-19: A Public Policy Polling survey for Democrat Zephyr Teachout’s campaign (10/23-24; 1,218 NY-19 registered voters via interactive voice response system) gives the Democratic nominee a 44-41% edge over former state Assembly Minority Leader John Faso (R) in their battle to replace retiring Rep. Chris Gibson (R-Kinderhook). This is a Democratic conversion opportunity race.

UT-4: The Doug Owens (D) challenger campaign released the results of their Anzalone Liszt Grove survey (10/11-13; 500 UT-4 likely voters) even though it shows their candidate trailing incumbent Rep. Mia Love (R-Saratoga Springs) by a substantial margin. According to the Democratic data, Republican Love leads, 50-40%. The poll was released to show the race closer than previously published surveys.

Governor

Missouri: Remington Research (10/23-25; 2,559 MO likely voters via interactive voice response system) finds the Show Me State Governor’s race tightening. This data suggests Republican former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens is pulling to within a 45-47% margin of Attorney General Chris Koster (D). The two are competing for the opportunity to replace term-limited Gov. Jay Nixon (D), who is ineligible to seek a third term.

North Carolina: We continue to see disparate polling results from the Tar Heel State Governor’s race, which is one of the most surveyed states in the country. The latest three, from Monmouth University (10/20-23; 402 NC likely voters), New York Times/Siena College (10/20-23; 792 NC likely voters) and Public Policy Polling (10/21-22; 875 NC likely voters) finds Gov. Pat McCrory (R) leading Attorney General Roy Cooper by one point in the Monmouth survey, but trailing by six and two points in the NYT/Siena and PPP polls. North Carolina continues to project as one of the Democrats’ best chances to unseat a GOP Governor.

Vermont: A new local Burlington WCAX television poll (Braun Research; 10/20-22; 603 VT likely voters) released the second consecutive Vermont gubernatorial poll that shows Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott leading the open race to succeed retiring Gov. Peter Shumlin (D). The polling results find Mr. Scott leading former state Labor Secretary Sue Minter (D), 47-40%. The margin is much stronger than the 39-38% split reported from an earlier survey. Though Vermont is heavily Democratic, Republicans can still win elections here, so the fact that the GOP nominee would be leading this particular race is not altogether astonishing. Two years ago, Gov. Shumlin failed to reach majority support, thus forcing his bid for re-election into the state legislature.

Washington: The University of Washington just released the results of their extensive poll conducted during the October 6-13 period of 750 registered voters. The data finds Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Bryant closing the gap between he and Gov. Jay Inslee (D), who is seeking a second term. According to this survey, Inslee’s margin over Bryant is only 46-42%, going to 51-45% when “leaners” are added to the totals.