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Period Ending February 6, 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: Quinnipiac University conducted a series of polls between January 22 and February 1st in the critical presidential swing states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The sampling cells ranged from a low of 881 (PA) to a high of 943 (OH). The news is good for Ms. Clinton, as she leads all GOP candidates in each tested state. The only favorable match-ups for Republicans against her featured Jeb Bush in Florida (Clinton 44; Bush 43) and Gov. John Kasich before his familiar Ohio electorate (Clinton 44; Kasich 43). In all other configurations, the former Secretary of State and First Lady led from ten to twenty points.

Mitt Romney: The former Republican presidential nominee’s decision not to pursue a third run for the White House will lead to Mr. Romney’s support being dispersed throughout the remainder of the Republican presidential field. Originally believed that Jeb Bush would be the main beneficiary of a Romney departure, a new Iowa poll (Selzer & Company for the Des Moines Register; 1/26-29; 402 IA GOP likely Caucus attenders) finds that the former nominee’s vote actually distributes somewhat evenly. Of all the contenders, it is former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee who seems to gain the most, upping his total by three percentage points. Mr. Bush, on the other hand, increases by only one point, from 8 to 9 percent.

Gov. Scott Walker: Wisconsin Gov. Walker continues to perform well in the early going, leading the field in the latest Iowa poll (see Mitt Romney above). Here, Walker nips Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) for first place, (15-14%). He does this even with both Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush present in the field. Without Romney, Walker continues to lead, and outpaces Bush by a full six points. A new poll from the first-in-the-nation primary state, New Hampshire, also finds Gov. Walker leading the Republican field. The NH1 Pulse Poll (2/2-3; 1,012 NH registered voters) projects the Wisconsin chief executive in first place with 21% followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush who garners 14 percent. All other candidates fail to reach double-digits.

Senate

Alaska: Former Sen. Mark Begich (D), who just lost a tight 46-48% race to freshman Sen. Dan Sullivan (R), announced that he will not seek his former position as Mayor of Anchorage. Begich had been reportedly considering entering the open seat contest, but has decided to form a consulting firm instead. He has not yet closed the door on challenging Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) next year, however.

Louisiana: While Sen. David Vitter (R) continues to appear as the front-runner in the 2015 open race for Governor, more action is transpiring in the battle to succeed him in the Senate. Aside from Rep. John Fleming (R-LA-4) who makes it clear that he is running statewide, we now see defeated Rep. Vance McAllister (R-LA-5) expressing his interest in a Senate race. Other speculation is circling around Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA-3) who, if he were to run, could be the only candidate from the southwestern sector of the state. Should Sen. Vitter be elected Governor, he would appoint an interim Senator who could then run for a full term in 2016, which will more than likely completely change the Republican picture.

Missouri: Remington Research, polling for the Missouri Alliance for Freedom (2/2-3; 747 MO GOP likely primary voters), tested Sen. Roy Blunt (R) as he prepares for his 2016 re-election campaign. Though the survey was primarily conducted for the open Governor’s race, Remington found Blunt with a 52:20% favorability index and leading businessman and former US Senate candidate John Brunner (R) by a healthy 50:19% in a hypothetical Republican primary match-up. Mr. Brunner has not indicated he is planning a Senatorial challenge. If he runs at all in 2016, it will likely be for Governor.

North Carolina: Public Policy Polling (1/29-31; 845 NC registered voters) tested Sen. Richard Burr (R) against a series of potential 2016 opponents. Mr. Burr was originally elected in 2004, and became the first person re-elected in this particular Senate seat since Sam Ervin (D) won a fourth term in 1968. Against former Sen. Kay Hagan (D), who is not ruling out a run against Burr, the Senator leads 48-42%. If state Treasurer Janet Cowell were the Democratic nominee, Senator Burr’s edge increases to 45-38%. Against US Transportation Secretary and former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx (D), the Burr margin is 47-36%. Neither Cowell nor Foxx have indicated any interest in making the race. This will be a competitive 2016 campaign.

Ohio: Varying reports are emanating from Ohio about former Gov. Ted Strickland (D). Several political publications reported late last week that Mr. Strickland had decided to challenge Sen. Rob Portman (R) next year, but individuals close to the ex-state chief executive and Congressman say he has made no final decision. Mr. Strickland was first elected to the US House in 1992, defeated in ‘94, and then regained the seat in 1996 where he remained until successfully winning the Governor’s chair in 2006. He was defeated for re-election in 2010 by current incumbent John Kasich (R).

Pennsylvania: Saying that the Democratic Party needs a 2016 Senatorial nominee “from the Elizabeth Warren wing of the party”, veteran state Sen. Vincent Hughes says he is considering running statewide. Former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA-7), the 2010 Senatorial nominee who lost 49-51% to Republican Pat Toomey, is already in the race with a developing campaign. Because Sestak has a reportedly poor relationship with the PA Democratic Party leadership, a Hughes candidacy could be viewed as a welcome addition to the Senatorial field.

House

AZ-9: Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) forming a leadership PAC has increased speculation that she may be testing the waters to challenge Sen. John McCain (R). A budding serious Republican primary for the Senator could make him vulnerable in a general election. Ms. Sinema says she is only interested in “doing a good job for my constituents in Congressional District Nine." Should she vacate this district, an open seat campaign would become highly competitive.

CA-38 & 44: Two House members are contemplating running for an open seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, one of the most powerful political bodies in California. Reps. Linda Sanchez (D-CA-38) and Janice Hahn (D-CA-44) are both apparently testing the local government waters. Hahn is likely the more serious of the two potential candidates. Her father, Kenneth Hahn, was a 40-year Board member and chairman so the Hahn name is well known in LA County political circles. Underscoring that a Hahn candidacy is likely to happen, state Sen. Isadore Hall (D) has committed to run for the Congresswoman’s House seat if she vacates, and neighboring Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA-37) immediately endorsed Hall for Congress. Already, one former US House member, Hilda Solis (D), is a member of the five-member Board of Supervisors.

TX-23: There was some speculation that Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R) was considering running for the open Governor’s position in 2016. This week, the Congressman indicated that he is more likely to seek re-election.

MO-3: Defeated Rep. Pete Gallego (D) is confirming interest in seeking a re-match with freshman Rep. Will Hurd (R). Gallego, who ousted Rep. Quico Canseco in 2012, lost a 50-48% campaign to Hurd, a former CIA agent. This district could be redrawn before the next election because a three judge federal panel has already ruled a portion of the central Texas congressional map as unconstitutional.

Governor

Kentucky: Harper Polling tested the newly-formed Kentucky gubernatorial contest and finds that a close general election campaign is appearing on the horizon. According to the survey (1/28-29; 640 KY registered voters), two of the potential Republican nominees would lead presumed Democratic nominee Jack Conway, the state’s Attorney General, and two are close behind him. State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer leads Conway 45-41%. Former Louisville Metro Councilor Hal Heiner also tops Conway, but by a smaller 44-42%. The Attorney General leads former state Supreme Court Justice Will Scott 44-40%, and investor and former US Senate candidate Matt Bevin, 45-41%. In the Republican primary ballot configuration (1/28-31; 261 KY likely Republican primary voters), Comer has a 25-19-18-9% advantage over Heiner, Bevin, and Scott, respectively. The small number of respondents polled over a rather long period suggests a high error factor, however.

Missouri: The Remington Research poll (see Missouri Senate above) found a non-candidate leading the open Republican gubernatorial primary. Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, who so far is indicating that he will seek re-election, actually leads the Republican gubernatorial candidates with 24% preference. In second place is state Auditor Tom Schweich at 15%, while former US Attorney and state House Speaker Catherine Hanaway posts 12 percent. Without Kinder in the field, Schweich leads Hanaway 16-13%. Businessman John Brunner was added to the latter ballot test without Kinder, and he registered 10 percent. Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster is the leading Democratic contender. Gov. Jay Nixon (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.

North Carolina: Public Policy Polling (see NC Senate above) also tested the Governor’s race, finding incumbent Pat McCrory (R) holding a small lead over four-term Attorney General Roy Cooper (D). Recently, Cooper confirmed he plans to run, and it’s a virtual certainty that he and the Governor will face off in the 2016 general election. According to the PPP numbers, McCrory’s advantage over Cooper is 44-39%.