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Period Ending February 21, 2020

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

President

National Polls: National Public Radio, PBS, and Marist College teamed to conduct a national Democratic presidential primary survey (2/13-16; 1,416 adults; 1,164 registered voters; 527 likely Democratic primary voters), as did NBC News and the Wall Street Journal (2/14-17; 900 registered voters; 426 likely Democratic primary voters). The two organizations delivered similar results in that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) leads both national surveys with 31 and 27%, respectively, while former Vice President Joe Biden is losing support; down 11 points in the NBC survey and nine in the Marist College poll. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is obviously on an upward path, gaining 15 points in the Marist College survey and rising to second position with 19% support.

Early Voting Stats: Early voting reports are emanating from Nevada for tomorrow's caucus vote. The state election authorities scheduled two days of early voting, an unusual procedure for this nomination format since the caucus system features actual precinct meetings. So far, more than 70,000 preference sheets - their ranked choice procedure does not feature a ballot - have been recorded. This number represents 83% of those attending the 2016 Nevada caucus meetings. Next door in California, where early voting began on February 3rd for the March 3rd Super Tuesday primary, over 1 million votes have already been cast in the Democratic presidential primary.

Minnesota: The University of Massachusetts at Lowell has been busy surveying several states. Their Minnesota study (2/12-19; 450 MN likely Democratic primary voters) sees Sen. Klobuchar climbing to the top of the candidate field for the first time here, or anywhere. The results find the home state Senator leading 27-21-16-10-9-9% over Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, ex-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and former Vice President Joe Biden, respectively. If this poll proved wholly accurate, the first three candidates would qualify for delegate apportionment, with Sen. Klobuchar clinching the lion's share of 32 committed first ballot delegate votes.

North Carolina: The University of Massachusetts at Lowell also surveyed the North Carolina electorate (2/12-18; 450 NC likely Democratic primary voters) and sees Sen. Bernie Sanders wresting the lead away from former Vice President Joe Biden in the Tar Heel State. Sen. Sanders scores 23% support in this survey with Michael Bloomberg placing second at 19%, and Mr. Biden only capturing 16% support, a reduction of approximately half of his previous preference factor. Sen. Elizabeth Warren follows with 13%, ex-Mayor Pete Buttigieg records 10%, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar posts 7% support.

South Carolina: YouGov, for the University of Massachusetts at Lowell (2/12-18; 400 SC Democratic likely primary voters), tested the February 29th South Carolina Democratic primary and finds former Vice President Joe Biden still leading the contest, but with a much thinner margin. Mr. Biden holds a 23-21-13-11-11-9-4% edge over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), billionaire Tom Steyer, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI). South Carolina remains a must-win primary for Mr. Biden, but now his prospects are apparently much more tenuous.

Winthrop University tested its home state electorate for the coming South Carolina primary (2/9-19; 443 SC likely Democratic primary voters) and they see former Vice President Joe Biden holding his lead but with a smaller margin. Winthrop projects Mr. Biden at 24%, while Sen. Bernie Sanders is next at 19%, billionaire Tom Steyer in delegate allocation position with 15%, and ex-Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar following consecutively with 7-6-4% backing.

Texas: The University of Massachusetts at Lowell tested the Texas electorate (2/12-18; 600 TX likely Democratic primary voters) and project Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden vying for the lead with the former man having a 23-20% edge. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren are likely in delegate allocation position with 18 and 14% support. No other candidate even reaches the 5% plateau.

Vermont: There has been little polling of the small Vermont Democratic electorate, but the state is voting on Super Tuesday, and home state Sen. Bernie Sanders may find himself in position to sweep the state's 16 first ballot delegates. A new Vermont Public Radio/PBS survey was fielded (2/4-10; 603 adults; 332 VT likely Democratic primary voters) and the results project Sen. Sanders with a majority 51% from his home constituency. The only candidate with what appears to be a potential to reach the 15% threshold for delegate allocation is former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg who posts 13% support in this survey. Though the state has only a minimum number of delegates, a Sanders sweep could prove to be a bonanza for him.

Senate

Alabama: Another poll suggests the Alabama Republican primary Senate contest is getting even closer. Former US Attorney General and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions continues to come back to the candidate pack after opening with a sizable advantage. Here, his lead over retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville is only 32-30%, according to WT & S Consulting who just released their data (2/9-10; 1,048 AL self-identified Republican voters; online). Following is US Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) with 22%. The other two candidates, former Alabama Supreme Court chief judge Roy Moore and state Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Shelby County) don't surpass the 7% support figure.

Georgia: Former US Attorney Ed Tarver (D), also a former Georgia state Senator who had said he would soon enter the race, formally announced his candidacy yesterday. He will join notable candidates Kelly Loeffler (R), the appointed incumbent, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville), businessman Matt Lieberman (D), and Baptist pastor Raphael Warnock (D) in the jungle primary field. The primary election isn't until Election Day, November 3rd. If no one scores majority support, a run-off will occur on January 5, 2021. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has already endorsed Dr. Warnock in hopes of making him a consensus candidate to ensure that a Democrat qualifies for the run-off election.

Kansas: Two general election polls were recently released into the public domain and they reveal distinct general election conclusions. DFM Research for the SMART Transportation union (1/30-2/6 with no calling on Super Bowl Sunday, 2/2; 600 KS residents) found former Secretary of State and 2018 gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach (R) and state Sen. Barbara Bollier (D-Mission Hills) tied with 43% apiece. The Kobach campaign then responded with their own McLaughlin & Associates survey (2/12-13; 300 KS likely general election voters), which posted their candidate to a 47-38% advantage over Sen. Bollier, who appears to be a consensus Democratic candidate.

Both polls have methodology issues. The DFM poll queries “residents” as opposed to registered voters, while the McLaughlin poll sites only 300 likely general election voters, which is a small sample. Additionally, neither the DFM nor McLaughlin poll reported a ballot test featuring Sen. Bollier and US Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend), which may have produced a distinctly different result.

Maine: Colby College, located in Waterville, ME, sponsored a survey of the Maine electorate administered by SocialSphere (2/10-13; 1,008 ME registered voters) that tested the impending Senate race between incumbent Susan Collins (R) and state House Speaker Sara Gideon (D-South Freeport). The results show a virtual tie between the two, with Gideon forging a 43-42% edge over the four-term Senator. Democrats view this race as a major national target, but Sen. Collins has yet to fully engage her advertising and holds over $7 million in reserve. Ms. Gideon reported just under $2.8 million in her account at the end of 2019 after spending almost $5 million.

Michigan: Quinnipiac University surveyed the Michigan electorate and found US Senate challenger John James (R) inching closer to incumbent Sen. Gary Peters (D) when compared to their earlier poll. Now, the Q-Poll (2/12-18; 845 MI registered voters) finds Sen. Peters' lead to be 45-39% over Mr. James, a manufacturing company owner and retired Army Ranger. In January, Sen. Peters had a ten-point lead in the Quinnipiac poll.

Texas: The Texas Tribune and University of Texas teamed to field a statewide survey (1/31-2/9; 1,200 TX registered voters; online) and, for the first time in this election cycle, found a Democratic US Senate candidate breaking 15%. According to TT/UT, retired Army helicopter pilot M.J. Hegar has increase her slight advantage to 22%, leading non-profit executive Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez and former US Representative and 2014 gubernatorial nominee Chris Bell who post 9 and 7% support factors. State Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) and Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards are next with 6% apiece.

It is clear from all data that the top two finishers will advance to a May 26th run-off election since no candidate is close to the 50% majority that would clinch the party nomination. Despite Ms. Hegar's lead, virtually all of the candidates are still alive to qualify for the secondary election since individual preference is low and the undecided/refused to answer figure is high at 40% with the March 3rd primary on the horizon.

Wyoming: Sen. Mike Enzi (R) is retiring after four terms, and during the week announced who he is supporting as his successor. Both he and fellow Sen. John Barrasso (R) are pledging their support for former at-large Rep. Cynthia Lummis who retired from the House before the 2016 election. Ms. Lummis served four terms in Congress and eight years as state Treasurer after winning terms in both houses of the state legislature to begin her political career. The eventual Republican nominee will become the prohibitive favorite to win the general election. At this point, Ms. Lummis has little in the way of opposition for the August 18th primary. That could change, however, if billionaire Foster Friess, who placed second in the 2018 open gubernatorial campaign, decides to enter the race. The candidate filing deadline is May 29th.

House

MI-3: Rep. Justin Amash (I-Cascade Township/ Grand Rapids) continues to find himself in an enhanced political position as he presumably attempts to seek his first re-election under the Independent ballot line. Mr. Amash left the Republican Party in 2019. This week, former White House aide Nick Colvin (D), who had raised almost $350,000 for his race, decided not to file his candidacy when the period closes on April 21st. His move leaves attorney Hillary Scholten as the most likely Democrat to claim the nomination in the August 4th primary. On the Republican side, businessman Peter Meijer, whose family name is well known with its prominent signage on retail outlets that they own around the state, appears to be in the best position.

WI-7: On Tuesday, voters in northern Wisconsin chose party nominees to replace resigned Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) who left Congress earlier in the year for family reasons. Republicans selected state Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua) in a 57-43% win over Afghanistan War veteran Jason Church. Wausau School Board member Tricia Zunker, a consensus Democratic candidate, scored a major 89-11% landslide win in her primary contest. Republicans hold a clear advantage in this district, so Sen. Tiffany becomes the heavy favorite to win the special general election on May 12th.

Governor

Virginia: Republican state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) just announced her candidacy for the open Virginia Governorship in 2021. Incumbent Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is ineligible to seek a second term from the last state in the nation that limits its elected chief executives to just one term in office. Sen. Chase's candidacy, as declared earlier this week while the legislature was considering the Governor's gun control initiative, will be slightly different in that she will run on the "gun rights" platform. Ms. Chase obviously won't be alone among Republicans who will defend the 2nd Amendment, but she apparently is looking to run an early single-issue campaign strategy.