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Period Ending October 9, 2015

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

President

Polls: A myriad of polling was again present during the week, and virtually all of it finds Donald Trump leading among Republicans, but his margin is beginning to fall. He is tops in all tested states, but nowhere near the 50% mark needed to clinch the nomination. Though he is far from securing victory, Mr. Trump remains further along than any other candidate. Dr. Ben Carson is second in all instances, with third place being divided among businesswoman Carly Fiorina, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Gov. John Kasich (R-OH). Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush continues to languish, dropping as low as 4% in Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to the Quinnipiac Swing State Poll of the respective domains.

Democrats continue to see a three-way race budding, assuming Vice President Joe Biden soon enters the contest. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton still leads the way and generally finds herself moving approximately 20 points ahead of both Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT). She typically remains below 50% support among Democrats, however, and again posts distrust figures hovering at or near 60% among the general voting populace. The latest polling finds Sen. Sanders opening significant leads over Ms. Clinton in both Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states that will conduct 2016 Democratic nomination voting.

Senate

Arizona: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) officially endorsed Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-1) for the party nomination. This gives the Congresswoman a strong advantage against any candidate and likely signals beyond doubt that Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ-9) will seek re-election as opposed to running statewide. The Democratic winner, presumably Rep. Kirkpatrick, will face Sen. John McCain (R) in the general election.

New Hampshire: In a long-awaited announcement, Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) declared that she will challenge Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) next year. This race, before the most volatile electorate in the country, will be highly competitive all the way to Election Day 2016. Early polling finds Sen. Ayotte consistently leading but by the smallest of margins. This race now must be rated a toss-up, and is a major recruitment coup for the national Democrats.

Ohio: Early in September, Harstad Strategic Research (9/9-10; 813 OH likely voters) conducted a poll of the Ohio electorate for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee though it was only released this week. The results, consistent with other early polling here, find former Gov. Ted Strickland (D) leading Sen. Rob Portman (R) 46-43%. The Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll (9/25-10/5; 1,180 OH registered voters) arrives at exactly the same result. The presidential race will play a major influencing role in this campaign. Portman’s huge cash advantage, about a 10:1 ratio, is an obvious positive factor for the incumbent.

Pennsylvania: Being the party establishment’s candidate has its perks. Former gubernatorial chief of staff Katie McGinty (D), challenging former Representative and 2010 Senatorial nominee Joe Sestak (D) with party hierarchy support, reports raising more than $1 million since her announcement and will report approximately $900,000 cash-on-hand. Mr. Sestak has yet to release his financial numbers. The disclosure reports will become public on October 15. Sen. Pat Toomey (R) is seeking re-election. The Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll (9/25-10/5; 1,049 PA registered voters) finds Toomey to be in very strong position against both Sestak and McGinty. The Senator tops ex-Rep. Sestak 49-34%, and Ms. McGinty by an even larger 51-31% margin.

House

House Leadership: Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA-23) shocked the political world by withdrawing from the Speaker race shortly before the scheduled election within the Republican Conference. The vote to replace resigning Speaker John Boehner (R) has been postponed indefinitely. Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-3) and Dan Webster (R-FL-10) will both remain Speaker candidates. It is likely many more will consider entering the race. McCarthy will remain as Majority Leader, with Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA-1) continuing as Majority Whip unless he decides to enter the Speaker race. The entire process is now engulfed in uncertainty.

IL-15: Citing that Rep. John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) broke his pledge to only serve six terms, which is strange since the Congressman is already in his tenth term, state Sen. Kyle McCarter has launched an official Republican primary challenge to the incumbent. Rep. Shimkus has a strong hold on the safe Republican district, so he begins this primary campaign as a heavy favorite to hold his position.

NC-2: Former North Carolina Republican Party Communications Director Kay Daly announced a primary challenge to Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-Dunn). Daly joins Chatham County Republican chairman Jim Duncan and radio talk show host Frank Roche as Ellmers’ primary challengers. The larger field actually increases the Congresswoman’s ability to win re-nomination. North Carolina, like most southern states, does employ a primary run-off system, but here it takes only 40% to win nomination instead of an absolute majority, as is the case in most places.

OH-8: Speaker John Boehner’s (R) soon-to-be-open House seat will head to special election early next year. Two major individuals have already announced their intentions to run, and another towering political figure will take a pass. State Sen. Bill Beagle and Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds, both Republicans, are officially running. State Senate President Keith Faber (R), commonly viewed as the favorite to win the seat, says he will remain in the legislature. More candidates are expected to enter. The safe Republican district will remain in GOP hands.

PA-2: State Rep. Brian Sims announced his Democratic primary challenge to indicted Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Philadelphia). Mr. Sims becomes the third Democrat to challenge the embattled Representative. Philadelphia 9th Ward Democratic Leader Dan Muroff and Lower Merion Township Commissioner Brian Gordon were previously in the race. Without a run-off system, the more white candidates who enter the race in this majority black district helps Fattah. He faces over 20 federal criminal counts.

Governor

Louisiana: More polling was released during the week, and they all are showing similar results: that is, Sen. David Vitter (R) and state Rep. John Bel Edwards (D) advancing to the general election run-off. Vitter’s worst showing came from JMC Analytics (9/28-30; 500 LA likely voters), which pegged him at just 19% preference. Edwards led the group with 28%. Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle (R) and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne (R) have fallen well off the pace. Louisianans are difficult to poll and Sen. Vitter, in the past, has always out-performed his polling by a substantial margin. Therefore, it’s hard to put great trust in the published numbers. The conclusion, however, of a predicted Vitter and Edwards advance seems to be a correct one. The jungle primary election is October 24, with the general run-off scheduled for November 21.

New Hampshire: With Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) now running for the Senate, the open Governor’s race will be wide open. Republicans already saw two candidates announce several weeks ago, Executive Councilor Chris Sununu and state Rep. Frank Edelblut. Democratic Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern also declared his gubernatorial candidacy. State Senate Majority Leader and former Congressman Jeb Bradley (R), Executive Councilor Chris Pappas (D), and Portsmouth City Councilor Stefany Shaheen (D), daughter of US Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D), are expected to enter the open race. This campaign will be rated a toss-up.