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Period Ending October 30, 2015

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

President

Republican Debate: The top 10 Republican presidential candidates participated in their third debate, and the CNCB-hosted event became more of an “us against them,” meaning the candidates against the media, than a debate among the contenders. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) led the pushback against what the candidates believed to be unfair questions designed to encourage attacks instead of policy discussion. The forum was largely out of control and featured all domestic questions, even one about whether fantasy football should be considered gambling, a subject to which Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) vociferously objected. Dr. Ben Carson was less forceful than in previous appearances but closed strongly. Donald Trump was less dominant than in previous forums. All of the candidates performed well.

Polls: The week’s most significant national poll came from CBS News and the New York Times (10/21-25; 575 self-identified Republican voters) that found Dr. Ben Carson overtaking Donald Trump for the national lead among GOP presidential candidates. This is a low sample poll – 575 respondents nationally is about half of what a normal sample size should be – so the error factor is high by the pollster’s own admission, somewhere between six and seven percentage points. Once again, however, the top two finishers are candidates who have never held elective office, which has been a constant pattern detected within Republican polling universes.

Other polls are finding Carson taking the lead in Iowa, but that state is difficult to poll because a caucus system is much different than a primary. Two new surveys released later in the week, CBS News (10/15-22; 1,462 registered voters via three Internet pollsters) found Trump leading Carson in the important South Carolina primary, 40-23%, with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) trailing at 8%. Clemson University’s Palmetto Poll (10/13-23; 600 SC Republican voters) also finds Trump and Carson running first and second but with closer margins. In this instance, Trump leads with 23% followed by Carson’s 19%. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) finishes third here, with 9 percent.

House

House Leadership: Ways & Means Committee chairman and former Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) won the Speakership and will replace resigning Rep. John Boehner (R-OH-8) as leader of the House of Representatives. Ryan was nominated in the Republican Conference on a vote of 200-43, and the next day on the floor with support of 236 of 245 Republicans who voted (Ryan and Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL-10), another Speaker candidate, did not vote), thereby eclipsing the necessary 218 mark need to win election to the House’s top post. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12) received 184 votes, all from Democrats.

FL Redistricting: The final redistricting plan is still not finally approved, but members are beginning to make moves in anticipation of final adoption. Reps. Gwen Graham (D-FL-2) and Corinne Brown (D-FL-5) must decide who will run in the new 5th District that stretches from Jacksonville to Tallahassee. Graham loses her Tallahassee base to District 5, making the new District 2 unwinnable for a Democrat. Rep. Brown could run in the new 10th District in Orlando, but it is probable that she will stay in northern Florida. Brown is also suing over the court action that declared her original 5th District that stretched from Jacksonville through Gainesville and Sanford to Orlando as being illegal. Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL-21) and Lois Frankel (D-FL-22) have been placed in the same district but pledge they will not run against each other. There are two Democratic seats in the Palm Beach/Broward County area, so it will not be difficult for each to find a suitable home.

DE-AL: Former state Labor Secretary Lisa Blunt Rochester (D) joined the field of Democratic candidates attempting to succeed Rep. John Carney (D). Rochester will face state Sen. Bryan Thompson and state Rep. Byron Short in the Democratic primary. The eventual party nominee will have the inside track to winning the seat in the general election. Rep. Carney is departing the House to run for Governor and will likely be elected as outgoing Gov. Jack Markell’s (D) successor.

KY-1: Originally, after Rep. Ed Whitfield (R) indicated he will retire next year, Democratic state Rep. Gerald Wilkins began readying a campaign to enter the race. But, Mr. Wilkins announced this week that he will not seek the open congressional seat next year. Republicans are heavy favorites to hold the western Kentucky seat, probably in the person of Agriculture Secretary and former gubernatorial candidate James Comer.

NH-1: Embattled Rep. Frank Guinta (R) attracted another Republican primary opponent. State Rep. Pam Tucker (R-Greenland/Portsmouth) announced that she will join the congressional primary. Already in the race is 2014 candidate and former University of New Hampshire Business School dean Dan Innis. Earlier this year the Federal Election Commission fined Mr. Guinta for improperly handling a loan from his parents that was subsequently used for his campaign, prompting members of his own party including Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) to call for his resignation from Congress. Other individuals may soon enter the race. The more opponents Guinta has, the better his chances of winning re-nomination. This district has defeated more incumbents than any seat in the country since 2006, including Rep. Guinta in 2012, and he is certainly high on the list of politically endangered House members once again.

SC-1: State Rep. Jenny Horne, who led the move in the legislature to take down the Confederate Flag from the State House, says she will challenge Rep. Mark Sanford in the Republican primary next year. Rep. Sanford, in his second tour of duty in Congress after serving two terms as Governor, was unopposed for re-election in 2014.

Governor

Kentucky: With Election Day looming near on Tuesday, the open Governor’s race remains tight. According to a new Western Kentucky University poll (10/19-25; 770 KY likely voters), Attorney General Jack Conway, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, leads Republican Matt Bevin, 45-40%, in the closing days. The Republican Governors Association, which had first abandoned Bevin due to what they said is his poorly run campaign, is back in the race spending in the $2 million range to close the gap between Bevin and Conway.

Louisiana: The jungle primary vote sent Democrat John Bel Edwards, a state Representative, and US Sen. David Vitter (R) to the general election. Edwards captured 38% of the vote compared to Vitter’s 23%. Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle (R) posted 21%, and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne (R) followed at 15 percent. Edwards and Vitter advance to what promises to be a nasty general election race that will conclude on November 21. Though Louisiana is now strongly Republican, Edwards has a chance to score an upset victory. Sen. Vitter is now reeling, with a low vote total and poor approval ratings.