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Period Ending February 12, 2016

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

President

New Hampshire: As we know, Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders easily won their respective Republican and Democratic primaries early in the week. Trump’s 35% vote total was more than double second-place finisher John Kasich’s total (16%), but he is still nowhere near attaining the 50% delegate support required to eventually win the nomination. Since Sen. Ted Cruz captured only 28% with a first-place finish in Iowa, should such a pattern continue throughout the process, it would place the Republican campaign in a contested convention situation. So far, after two state nominating events, Mr. Trump leads in committed delegates, but with only 17. Sen. Cruz has 11 delegate votes, Sen. Marco Rubio 10, Gov. Kasich 5, ex-Gov. Jeb Bush 4, and Dr. Ben Carson 3.

For the Democrats, Sen. Sanders crushing 60-38% victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may prove to represent the apex of his presidential campaign. Once the contest moves to the west and south, Clinton will dominate and, coupled with her support among the Super Delegates, a category of convention voters that only Democrats feature, is still on track to win the party nomination. Even though Sanders’ popular vote was convincing, his regular delegate margin was 15-9. But, six New Hampshire Super Delegates committing to Ms. Clinton actually allowed her to tie him in delegate strength, even while being rebuffed by Granite State Democratic voters. Counting verbally pledged Super Delegate support – and, the SDs are not legally bound to vote that way on the convention floor, and can change their allegiances right up to the time the votes must be cast – Clinton already has an overall delegate lead of 44-36 after Iowa and New Hampshire. Adding the verbal commitments from Super Delegates around the country, Clinton is approaching 400, while Sanders is nearing only 50.

New Hampshire primary turnout was record setting, as both parties exceeded their previous participation numbers. The grand total number of combined primary voters was 535,103, which represented 60.6% of the entire registered voter base in the state. These numbers actually approach general election participation totals in many states. About 35,000 more people voted in the Republican primary.

New Hampshire also brought an end to the campaigns of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and businesswoman Carly Fiorina. The Republicans now have seven presidential candidates, and the Democrats continue with two.

South Carolina: The GOP candidates next head to the South Carolina primary – a Winner-Take-All by congressional district state, with an additional 29 at-large delegates going to the statewide first-place finisher – on February 20. Both parties have the Nevada Caucus on February 23, and the Democrats then vote in South Carolina on Saturday, February 27. Super Tuesday, featuring voting in 12 states for both parties (Colorado only for Democrats; Alaska only for Republicans), then quickly follows on March 1.

The latest South Carolina Republican poll, NBC/WSJ/Marist College (1/17-23; 718 SC likely primary voters) finds Mr. Trump polling 36% statewide, with Sen. Cruz at 20%, Sen. Rubio posting 14%, ex-Gov. Bush at 9%, Dr. Carson, 8%, and Gov. Kasich only registering 1% preference. We will see many more polls coming into the public domain during the next few days. For the Democrats, the same NBC/WSJ/Marist poll (446 SC likely Democratic voters) finds Ms. Clinton leading Sen. Sanders, 64-27%. This margin will likely tighten, but it is unlikely that Sanders can make up much ground in this state considering his poor numbers in the African American community and with moderate white voters. These voter categories dominate the South Carolina Democratic primary complexion.

Senate

California: State Assemblyman Rocky Chavez (R-San Diego) dropped his US Senate campaign bid, lacking financial support. He will seek re-election to the legislature, instead. Though Chavez was not a significant statewide player in the race, his departure does have an effect. With now two Republican candidates remaining, it will be easier to coalesce GOP voters for one candidate in an attempt to qualify a contender for the general election. In California, the top two primary finishers, regardless of political party affiliation, advance to the general election. With a split Republican field, Democrats have a good chance of advancing Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is a lock for the first qualifying position, and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA-46) to the general election. Democrats will hold the seat, and Harris, as well as the GOP, is hoping for a Republican second-place finish to make her ride in November much easier.

Indiana: Candidate filing closed in the Hoosier State, and ex-Indiana Republican Party chairman and former Sen. Dan Coats congressional aide Eric Holcomb, the first announced Senatorial candidate, did not file. Instead, he will join the gubernatorial re-election ticket of Gov. Mike Pence (R) as the Lt. Governor nominee. Gov. Pence announced that Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann (R) will be resigning her position, and he will appoint Holcomb as her replacement. This makes the Senate primary race a virtual two-person campaign, featuring Reps. Todd Young (R-IN-9) and Marlin Stutzman (R-IN-3). According to the recently released campaign financial disclosure reports, Young has raised $2.9 million for his campaign versus $1.7 million for Stutzman.

House

Indiana Filings: Every Indiana incumbent Congressman will face a minor primary challenge in the May 3 nomination vote. The state’s candidate filing deadline passed last week, and though each incumbent has primary and general election opposition, all seven are easily favored for re-election. The two competitive races will come in the open 3rd (Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Howe/Ft. Wayne)) and 9th (Rep. Todd Young (R-Bloomington)) districts. Both incumbents are running for retiring Sen. Dan Coats’ (R) open Senate seat. Both general elections will favor the eventual Republican nominee. In the 3rd, six candidates are running with two, state Sen. Jim Banks and businessman Kip Tom, appearing to be the early leaders. Four Democrats are filed, but none seems particularly strong. In the 9th, a more interesting multi-candidate race is developing among five Republican candidates, including the state Attorney General, two state Senators, and a self-funding businessman. Democrats have four candidates and may be more competitive in this open seat.

North Carolina Redistricting: A special three-judge federal panel, despite the primary election being scheduled for March 15 and absentee ballots already sent to voters, invalidated two of the state’s congressional districts because of racial gerrymandering. Now, the Republican legislature is cast with re-drawing the map before the court-imposed deadline of February 19 so the primary can continue as scheduled. The race likely most affected is the Republican primary contest in District 3 among incumbent Rep. Walter Jones (R-Farmville/Greenville/Jacksonville), former Bush Administration official Griffin Taylor, who held Jones to a 51-45% victory in 2014, and military veteran Phil Law. More on this situation will develop toward the end of the month.

VA-2: Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA-4), who finds his 4th District redrawn into a Democratic seat, announced his candidacy in the neighboring 2nd District. Retiring Rep. Scott Rigell (R), who had openly encouraged Forbes to move to this adjacent district to run, currently represents the open Virginia Beach seat. The redistricting plan made the 2nd much more Republican. Delegate Scott Taylor (R) is also a candidate in this district. Forbes released a Public Opinion Strategies 2nd District survey (2/2-3; 400 VA-2 likely Republican primary voters) that places him ahead of Taylor, 43-24%. The latter possessed his own earlier poll that shows the two men virtually tied, but that data was accumulated much earlier and well before Forbes made the decision to run. The Virginia primary is scheduled for June 14, assuming party leaders do not opt for a nominating convention.

Governor

New Hampshire: Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas (R), who just survived with a 64-vote re-election victory in 2015, says he is seriously considering entering the open Governor’s race this year. Gatsas would face Executive Councilor Chris Sununu in the Republican primary along with state Rep. Frank Edelblut. Sununu, the son of former Governor and White House Chief of Staff John Sununu, who had nasty words for Republican presidential primary winner Donald Trump during the campaign just ended, has an established gubernatorial campaign and is already slightly outpolling the Democrats in early general election polling. Gatsas would begin the primary race as an underdog to Sununu, but he would have to be viewed as a major candidate. He has previously, however, mused about running for Governor only to pull back before the filing deadline. The New Hampshire gubernatorial primary is not until September 13.

North Carolina: A new High Point University survey of the primary electorate in both gubernatorial races finds no surprises. Gov. Pat McCrory (R) tops 75% in the Republican field, and Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) has a 49-11% lead over state Rep. Ken Spaulding (D). The McCrory-Cooper general election will prove highly competitive.