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Period Ending February 13, 2015

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

President

Hillary Clinton: Between the February 5-15 period Quinnipiac University conducted a series of polls in three key general election swing states, Colorado, Iowa, and Virginia (between 1,000 and 1,100 respondents in each place). The Q-Poll officials tested Ms. Clinton against five Republican candidates in each state. In the 15 ballot tests, the former Secretary of State and First Lady could pull no better than 45% support in any scenario. Her low water mark was 42% suggesting that she has a very stable following, but one that must expand if she is to win the general election. In the six past presidential campaigns dating back to when her husband, Bill Clinton, was first elected in 1992, Iowa has voted Democratic five times, Colorado in three instances, and Virginia twice. Not breaking 50% in any of these states against candidates like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has relatively low name identification, suggests that the Republicans have a much higher ceiling than Ms. Clinton in each of these highly competitive domains.

Marist Polls: NBC/Marist College conducted a series of their own nomination polls in three of the first four scheduled primary and caucus states. During the Feb. 3-10 period (891 IA likely caucus attenders; 887 NH likely primary voters; 877 SC likely primary voters) Marist asked likely primary or caucus voters about their presidential preferences. Hillary Clinton easily topped the Democratic field in all three instances by whopping margins. But, on the Republican side, the situation proved much different. Each poll produced a different leader: Mike Huckabee in Iowa with 17%; Jeb Bush in New Hampshire at 18%; and favorite son Sen. Lindsey Graham in South Carolina posting 17% voter preference. The Republican data also found as many as five candidates placing in double-digit figures in at least one poll, the aforementioned three and Govs. Scott Walker (R-WI) and Chris Christie (R-NJ). The numbers suggest a GOP field with no clear leader, a scenario that could reasonably lead to a brokered Republican National Convention.

Sen. Rand Paul: According to a report in the New York Times, Sen. Paul (R-KY) is planning to officially declare his presidential candidacy on or around April 7th. This will likely make him the first individual to declare for President, thus officially kick-starting the campaign cycle.

Senate

Florida: Both Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-23), the chair of the Democratic National Committee, and Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18) again publicly expressed interest in running for the Senate next year. Sen. Marco Rubio (R) clarifying whether he is running for President or Senate will open the floodgates for a chain reaction of Florida campaign announcements. Both Schultz and Murphy would be formidable, particularly in an open seat situation if Sen. Rubio chooses to run nationally. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL-9) previously said he was interested in making a Senate bid, but will yield to Wasserman Schultz should she decide to run.

Illinois: Former one-term Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL-8) again said he is “seriously considering” challenging Sen. Mark Kirk in the 2016 GOP primary. Democrats look at this seat as their top national conversion opportunity. A difficult Republican primary will only enhance Democratic chances of attaining a general election victory.

Missouri: Democratic Secretary of State Jason Kander announced that he will challenge Sen. Roy Blunt (R) next year. Kander is a top Democratic recruitment and could construct a competitive campaign. Still, he faces an uphill battle against the formidable Blunt in a state that will almost assuredly support the Republican presidential nominee.

New Hampshire: The same Marist New Hampshire poll (see Marist Polls in the Presidential section above) tested a potential US Senate race between incumbent Kelly Ayotte (R) and Gov. Maggie Hassan (D). For the first time, a survey gives Hassan a slight lead over the first-term Republican incumbent, 48-44%. The Governor has given no indication that she will run for the Senate. She is eligible to seek a third two-year term in her current position.

Ohio: Youngstown area Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH-13) announced that he will not run for Senate in 2016, thus opening the door for former Gov. Ted Strickland (D) who is reportedly moving closer toward challenging Sen. Rob Portman (R) next year. Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is an announced Democratic candidate and claims to have attracted over $500,000 in campaign pledges. Sen. Portman opens his fight for re-election in the favorite’s position against all potential Democratic opponents, including Strickland.

Utah: Former Governor and presidential candidate Jon Huntsman (R) said he will not launch a primary challenge against first-term Sen. Mike Lee (R). While Huntsman commented that he and Lee don’t always agree on issues, he reiterated that the Senator “is quite capable.” Mr. Lee served as then-Gov. Huntsman’s legal counsel. Huntsman was twice elected statewide, but left in the middle of his second term to join the Obama Administration as US Ambassador to China. Mr. Huntsman then entered the 2012 Republican presidential nomination campaign, but fared poorly.

House

CA-44: After several weeks of speculation, three-term Rep. Janice Hahn (D) made official her plans to run for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in 2016, thus leaving her US House seat open. Rep. Hahn’s father, Kenneth Hahn, served on the Board for 40 years. With only five Supervisors in the entire county, each district covers almost two million people. It is one of the most powerful political bodies in California. Rep. Hahn also endorsed state Senator Isadore Hall (D) as her replacement in Congress. Mr. Hall stepped aside for her in 2012, after she received a difficult draw in redistricting. Now, her support for him returns the favor. This becomes the seventh open seat situation announced since the new Congress began.

IA-1: Hotel chain president Ravi Patel became the second Democrat to already officially announce a 2016 challenge to freshman Rep. Rod Blum (R). Currently in the race is Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman and former Lt. Governor nominee Monica Vernon. The eastern 1st District is the most heavily Democratic seat in Iowa. Rep. Blum scored an upset in 2014, winning an open seat victory over former state House Speaker Patrick Murphy (D). He succeeded then-Rep. Bruce Braley (D) who lost the 2014 Senate race to freshman Joni Ernst (R).

NY-11: A federal district judge ruled that Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) must schedule the special election to replace resigned Rep. Michael Grimm (R) by Friday, February 20th, or the court will take action. Federal judge Jack Weinstein wrote, "the right to representation in government is the central pillar of democracy in this country. Unjustified delay in filling a vacancy cannot be countenanced.” Republicans are heavy favorites to win the special election, which is why it is believed Cuomo wants to indefinitely delay the vote. Republicans have chosen Richmond County District Attorney Dan Donovan as their nominee. Democrats have interviewed New York City Councilman Vincent Gentile, state Assemblyman William Colton, both of Brooklyn, and organized labor activist Robert Holst. If action is taken Friday, expect the special vote to be scheduled on or around May 4th.

Governor

Oregon: Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) succumbed to a conflict of interest scandal involving his longtime fiancé, Cylvia Hayes, and resigned his position. Dr. Kitzhaber, a physician, was the only person in Oregon history ever elected four separate times as the state’s chief executive. Secretary of State Kate Brown (D) ascends to succeed Kitzhaber since the state has no Lt. Governor. She will serve until the regular 2016 election, when she and others can run to serve the balance of what will be Kitzhaber’s final term. The winner can then seek a full four-year term in 2018.