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Period Ending February 5, 2016

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

President

Iowa: The polling proved wrong for the Iowa Republican Caucuses, at least in terms of predicting the first-place finisher. During the period of January 18-31, 10 surveys were fielded from nine different pollsters. All projected Donald Trump to win the Iowa voting from between 1 and 8 percentage points. He ended, as we know, placing second and four points behind Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was stronger than expected, notching third position. Though most pollsters projected him a distant third, only two, the Emerson College Polling Society and Opinion Savvy, placed him in the actual realm of finish.

The Iowa Caucuses claimed four casualties as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), ex-Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) all suspended their presidential campaigns. Sen. Paul remains in the political arena and will concentrate on his Senate re-election campaign. Democrats have recruited a top-tier candidate to challenge Sen. Paul, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray.

Pollsters were closer in predicting the Democratic finish, but none forecast the virtual tie that became the actual result. The Democratic process is much different than the Republican procedure. This allowed Hillary Clinton to score a lead in the Iowa delegate count (29-21), but that won’t likely provide her a lift heading into New Hampshire. The latest Granite State polls give Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) a major lead over Ms. Clinton in NH. Once the campaign turns south, however, she will rebound and likely clinch the nomination in early to mid-March.

Republican polling suggests a strong lead for Trump in New Hampshire, which is now becoming a must-win for the flamboyant businessman. Should he fail to capture first place, Trump’s campaign could begin the drive down a slippery slope and into political oblivion. The real race, however, may be for second and third place. Candidates such as Govs. John Kasich (R-OH), Chris Christie (R-NJ), and ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush need a second- or third-place score to remain viable. Sen. Rubio still needs to perform well here in order to expand the momentum he developed in Iowa. The New Hampshire primary is next Tuesday.

Senate

Kentucky: Sen. Rand Paul (R) departs the presidential campaign to concentrate on his Senate re-election. Democrats now have Lexington Fayette Urban County Government Mayor Jim Gray (D) as their candidate, who has the ability to run a strong campaign. Sen. Paul will remain a strong favorite for a second term in part because Kentucky will remain a solid Republican state in the presidential campaign so the Democratic ticket will not get a boost from the national campaign. Still, this could be a Senate race to watch.

Maryland: Candidate filing closed in the Free State, and neither Reps. John Delaney (D-MD-6) nor Elijah Cummings (D-MD-7) filed to run for the Senate. No one expected either man to file at the last moment, but each refused to close the door on entering a Senate contest until filing closed. Both filed for re-election for their respective House seats. Reps. Donna Edwards (D-MD-4) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8) are the leading contenders to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D).

House

Retirements: Two more House members joined the cavalcade of Representatives not seeking another term in 2016. Reps. Stephen Fincher (R-TN-8) and Reid Ribble (R-WI-8) voluntarily ending their congressional service at the end of this term means 39 seats will be open in the coming election: 25 Republican held as compared to 14 from Democratic districts. The higher number of retirements and those vacating to seek a different political office means that 148 seats have been in open status during the last three election cycles.

Virginia Redistricting: The US Supreme Court denied the congressional Republicans’ motion to stay the implementation of the lower court redistricting alterations, meaning the new map will be in effect for the 2016 election. Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Chesapeake) is on the political hot seat because his 4th District has been turned from a Likely Republican seat into a Likely Democratic one. The two adjacent seats, Districts 2 and 5, have been made more Republican, and since both have retiring Republican incumbents, Forbes will likely change districts. Outgoing Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Virginia Beach) is openly encouraging Forbes to run in the new 2nd District, which becomes 8 percentage points more Republican. He will have Republican opposition, however, at least in the person of state Delegate Scott Taylor. Rep. Forbes has never represented any of the Virginia Beach area. His senior post on the Veteran Affairs Committee, however, should help him in this heavily military district. It is likely Democrats will gain one seat here in the upcoming election and improve the state ratio, from their perspective, to 7R-4D. The Republicans gain in the two open seats, however, and can effectively remove those from the competitive board.

PA-8: Rep. Scott Petri (R), a one-time favorite to replace retiring Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Levittown), ended his congressional campaign late this week. With the local county party on the cusp of formally endorsing the Congressman’s brother, Brian Fitzpatrick, a retired FBI agent who announced his candidacy last week, it appeared that Mr. Petri would have a difficult road to securing the nomination for what will be a competitive November campaign. With Petri out, Brian Fitzpatrick has the inside track for the nomination and will face Democratic state Rep. Steve Santarsiero or businesswoman Shaughnessy Naughton, the latter a favorite of national liberal organizations.

West Virginia: Candidate filing closed in the Mountain State during the past week. It appears that only the 2nd District of freshman Rep. Alex Mooney (R-Charles Town) will see serious competition in the fall. Former state Delegate Mark Hunt (D), who dropped his bid for state Attorney General in order to run for Congress, will likely be the leading Democratic candidate. Mooney held off former state Democratic Party chairman Nick Casey 47-44% in 2014, but the latter did not return to seek a re-match.

WY-AL: Rep. Cynthia Lummis’ (R-Cheyenne) at-large open seat is attracting a great deal of attention. Announcing in a Twitter feed with an Alexandria, VA address, Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney (R), who briefly began an ill-fated primary challenge to Sen. Mike Enzi (R) in 2014, says she will run for the US House post that her father once held. Also in the Republican race are state Sen. Leland Christensen and state Rep. Tim Stubson, in addition to four others. The August 16 Wyoming Republican primary will decide who succeeds Ms. Lummis since Democrats are not competitive here in the general election. The Congresswoman is retiring after what will be four terms in office.

Governor

North Dakota: Democrats are temporarily left without a candidate in the open Governor’s campaign, as former Agriculture Commissioner Sarah Vogel decided not to enter the statewide contest. She was believed to be the Democrats’ strongest available option to run a competitive general election effort, but now the party leaders must go back to the drawing board. The heavy favorite is Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, who is expected to win the official Republican Party endorsement at the state convention. Wealthy investor Doug Burgum and state Rep. Rick Becker are also in the race. It remains to be seen if either take the nomination process to a primary election after the state party acts. The North Dakota candidate filing deadline is April 11.

West Virginia: Filing also closed for the open Governor’s contest. Republican state Senate President Bill Cole will be unopposed for the party nomination. Democrats filed three candidates: former US Attorney Booth Goodwin, billionaire businessman Jim Justice, and state Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler. The winner replaces term-limited Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D).