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Period Ending March 18, 2016

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

President

March 15: The critical March 15 primaries were held during the week, and they proved as definitive as predicted; in fact, even more so. The mild surprise came on the Democratic side as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton swept all five primaries. Her victories allowed her to surpass the 1,550 mark in regular and Super Delegate commitment or announced support. This is almost double Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 800+ number, and puts her within sight of the 2,383 delegate votes to officially clinch the party nomination. Effectively, the March 15 primaries in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio allowed her to deliver the clinching blow that she was looking for on March 1. It is apparent that this nomination campaign is nearing its end.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump took four of the five state primaries, but losing Winner-Take-All Ohio to the state’s Governor, John Kasich, keeps the door open for Trump’s remaining opponents to force a contested convention. After Trump’s strong victory in Winner-Take-All Florida, home state Sen. Marco Rubio suspended his presidential campaign. His 172 pledged delegates, earned in previous primaries and caucuses, remain in abeyance. Sen. Rubio can release the delegates, and then they would become unbound votes, or he can keep them. In the latter scenario, these individuals would vote for Rubio on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention. This could be a meaningful group if Trump does not have the necessary 1,237 votes to claim the nomination.

Though Trump is now in the 675-range for delegates, he still needs approximately 55-57% of the remaining pool to reach the victory plateau. Kasich and Sen. Ted Cruz working together to strategically deny Trump delegates especially in Winner-Take-All by congressional district states (Wisconsin, Maryland, Connecticut, Indiana, California) could conceivably keep the race leader from winning on the first ballot. Most delegates become freed on the second ballot, meaning the voting could continue for several rounds. The convention will remain in session until a nominee is chosen.

The next set of primaries and caucuses will take center stage on March 22, and features voting in Arizona and Utah for both parties. Democrats will vote in Idaho, Republicans in American Samoa. Arizona, with 58 Republican delegates, is the last of the large Winner-Take-All states.

Senate

Florida: In a news conference with reporters after suspending his presidential campaign, Sen. Marco Rubio (R) confirmed that he will not backtrack and re-enter the Senate campaign this year. He further said he will not run for Governor in 2018 when incumbent Rick Scott is ineligible to seek a third term.

Illinois: The two Land of Lincoln Senate primaries unfolded as predicted. Sen. Mark Kirk (R) and Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-8) easily won their individual elections. Sen. Kirk defeated his minor opponent with 71% of the vote, while Rep. Duckworth scored a 64-24-12% win against former Urban League President Andrea Zopp and state Sen. Napoleon Harris.

The Kirk-Duckworth race likely gives the Democrats their best conversion opportunity in the United States. Both will run strong campaigns, but Illinois votes heavily Democratic in presidential years and Sen. Kirk is likely in the underdog position even though he is the incumbent. Since Illinois will not likely become a presidential battleground state, and be conceded to Hillary Clinton in the general election, Sen. Kirk can expect little in the way of a national Republican wave to help him with an added turnout boost.

Maryland: A new OpinionWorks poll sponsored by the Baltimore Sun newspaper (3/4-8; 400 MD likely primary voters), finds Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD-4) leading fellow Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8) by a six-point 34-28% margin with a huge number of respondents undecided. This is the largest lead a poll has projected for either candidate even though the defined choice number is very low. Last week, a Gonzales Research survey found Van Hollen clinging to a one-point edge. This race is expected to go down to the wire. The winner replaces retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D). The Maryland primary is April 26.

North Carolina: The Tar Heel Senate race is commonly viewed as the Democrats’ biggest candidate recruitment failure, but the primary results may begin to put this race back on the competitive board. Incumbent GOP Senator Richard Burr, seeking a third term, scored a rather weak 61% re-nomination victory over Tea Party activist and former Senate candidate Greg Brannon and two others in the statewide Republican primary.

Burr spent more than $1.6 million compared to Brannon’s $200,000, thus providing another indication regarding the anti-incumbent sentiment within a segment of GOP primary voters. For the Democrats, former state Rep. Deborah Ross exceeded expectations with a 62-16% victory over local Mayor Chris Rey and two others. The North Carolina race was considered to be strongly in Burr’s favor, but a close presidential race and the Tar Heel State electorate seemingly always itching to toss incumbent Senators will likely move this race up the Democratic priority list.

Ohio: What promises to be a top tier 2016 general election Senate race now has two official nominees as Sen. Rob Portman (R) and former Gov. Ted Strickland (D) each scored big wins in their respective primaries. The day after the vote, the Freedom Partners organization began running major statewide advertising attacking Strickland on his performance as Governor, particularly in the area of job loss. Strickland, elected in the Democratic wave year of 2006, was defeated for re-election in 2010 by current Governor and presidential candidate John Kasich.

Though Sen. Portman’s favorability index and job approval scores have been good, he consistently trails Strickland by very small margins. This makes for an interesting general election in a must-win state for Democrats. Despite the polling results, Sen. Portman is considered the favorite. He enjoys a better than 6:1 cash-on-hand ratio over his Democratic opponent.

House

IL-1: Rep. Bobby Rush (D), who defeated Barack Obama when the then-state Senator challenged him in 2000, easily turned back Chicago Alderman Howard Brookins Jr. in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. Rep. Rush topped 71% of the vote.

IL-8: Former Deputy State Treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi, as expected, easily defeated Sen. Mike Noland, and Villa Park local president Deb Bullwinkel, 57-29-14%. Krishnamoorthi will easily win the general election this fall and replace Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D) who won the party’s Senate nomination.

IL-10: Former Rep. Brad Schneider (D), who lost his seat to current Rep. Bob Dold (R) after only one term, successfully captured the Democratic nomination this week but in underwhelming fashion. Schneider defeated local town president Nancy Rodkin Rotering, 55-45%. The Dold-Schneider re-match will be hotly contested. The Democratic legislative leaders originally drew the seat to defeat Dold, which it did in 2012, but he was able to successfully return. The higher presidential turnout model makes things more difficult for Dold in 2016, but not as bad as 2012 when he faced a ballot with favorite son President Barack Obama leading the Democratic ticket. This race will be rated a toss-up for November.

IL-15: Ten-term Rep. John Shimkus (R) faced the most difficult of the evening’s primary challenges, this from state Sen. Kyle McCarter (R). Shimkus was able to overwhelm McCarter with campaign resources, and despite the anti-incumbent climate in downstate Illinois, won a 60-40% victory. The 15th is one of the most Republican seats in the state, so Mr. Shimkus will have an easy ride in the general election. He is now expected to run for chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee.

NY-3: Local Long Island Republican leaders have successfully cleared the field for their chosen candidate, state Sen. Jack Martins. The leadership convinced retired Marine officer David Gurfein to run in the neighboring 4th District against freshman Rep. Kathleen Rice (D) than in the more winnable open seat. Democrats have six candidates attempting to succeed retiring Rep. Steve Israel (D) including controversial former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi who lost his position in 2010. This race becomes a Republican conversion opportunity in the general election.

OH-8: In the special election to replace resigned House Speaker John Boehner (R) businessman Warren Davidson, riding strong support from the Club for Growth organization, defeated 15 Republican opponents to win the GOP nomination. This assures him of a special general election victory on June 7 against Democrat Corey Foister and two Independents. Mr. Davidson also was nominated for the regular two-year term. He defeated is two principal challengers in both contests, state Rep. Tim Derickson and state Sen. Bill Beagle, 32-24-20%.

OH-14: In northeast Ohio, Rep. David Joyce (R) again turned back a Republican primary challenge from former state Rep. Matt Lynch. The Congressman’s win margin was a substantial 65-35%, far better than his ten-point win two years ago. Mr. Joyce should have little trouble winning a third term in November.

Governor

North Carolina: The Tar Heel State gubernatorial nominations were decided this week. Gov. Pat McCrory (R) scored an easy 82% win over his two minor opponents, while four-term Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) notched a 69-31% victory in his party primary. The general election has been polling close for weeks, and the contest figures to be close from now until Election Day. As one of the top battleground states in the country, the North Carolina Governor’s race will be affected by the presidential campaign because of turnout. The state is a must-win for the GOP in the national contest, which should give Gov. McCrory an electoral boost.