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Period Ending April 11, 2014

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

Senate

Arkansas: A new Opinion Research Associates poll (4/1-8; 400 AR registered voters) shows Sen. Mark Pryor (D) breaking out in his race against challenger Tom Cotton (R-AR-4). The Little Rock survey research firm projects a 48-38% margin for Pryor over the freshman Congressman, much greater than any other poll has offered to date. The leaders of the National Republican Senatorial Committee released a statement calling the results “hogwash.” They claim the poll skews Democratic by at least seven points, that the eight-day sampling period was too long, and is too small to test a statewide campaign. The GOP points have some validity. Likely a more realistic survey comes from the previously reported Hendrix College/Talk Business study (4/3-4; 1,068 AR registered voters) that posts the Senator to a 46-43% advantage.

Kentucky: Public Policy Polling, surveying for the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org (4/1-2; 663 KY registered voters), finds results consistent with every other pollster who has tested the Bluegrass State Senate race. In this case, Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes leads Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) 45-44%. The two candidates have been within very small margins for the past several months.

Louisiana: Magellan Strategies surveyed the Bayou State electorate (3/24-26; 600 LA registered voters) and again finds that three-term Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) is showing vulnerability signs. Her job approval is an upside down 42:53%, which is even more stark when compared to the state’s other Senator, Republican David Vitter, who records a 60:28% favorability ratio. On the ballot test question, Landrieu leads Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA-6), retired Air Force officer Rob Maness (R), and state Rep. Paul Hollis (R), 39-26-3-3%, respectively. If no candidate receives an outright majority in the November 4th election, the top two finishers, regardless of political party affiliation, will square off in a post-election run-off on December 6th.

Maine: In 2012, when Sen. Angus King (I) was an open seat candidate, he attempted to position himself as a tiebreaker if the majority came down to one single vote. Because the pre-election forecasts suggested the possibility that the two parties could be of equal strength, one Independent member choosing a party with which to caucus would propel that particular entity into majority status. After the election, when it became clear that the Democrats had a sizable majority, the liberal Senator joined them. Now, he’s making independent noises again and starting to openly flirt with Republicans, since it appears they are again close to claiming the Senate majority. So, Angus King becomes yet another potential problem with which Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) will have to contend.

Michigan: Public Policy Polling (4/3-6; 825 MI registered voters) tested the Michigan Senate race and came to a different conclusion than those of other pollsters. In the past few months, Republican Terri Lynn Land has consistently enjoyed a small lead over Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI-14) for the seat being vacated by the retiring Sen. Carl Levin (D). According to PPP, it’s Rep. Peters who has now forged a five-point, 41-36% advantage over Ms. Land. Both candidates sport similar mediocre personal approval ratings. Land scores a 28:31% positive to negative ratio, while Peters records 26:27%.

Mississippi: Two polls were released this week in the Republican primary challenge to veteran Sen. Thad Cochran (R). NSON Opinion Strategies (released 4/2; 400 MS Republican primary voters) shows Mr. Cochran leading state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) only 45-37%. A second poll, from Republican Harper Polling (4/3-5; 570 MS GOP primary voters), projects the Senator to be in stronger position. In this survey, he records a 53-35% margin against McDaniel. The Mississippi primary challenge continues to be the most serious for any GOP incumbent.

Oregon: Harper Polling released a rare poll of the Oregon Senate race (4/1-2; 670 OR registered voters), and they find that first-term Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) may be showing some early signs of vulnerability. According to these results, Mr. Merkley leads state Rep. Jason Conger (R) 47-40%, and little known surgeon Monica Wehby (R) 46-34%. The Senator’s job approval index is 41:33% positive to negative.

Virginia: MoveOn and Public Policy Polling also tested the budding Virginia challenge to Sen. Mark Warner (D). In his battle with former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie, the Senator has a double-digit 49-35% spread, a margin consistent with other early surveys of this race.

House

FL-13: The rather inconsistent St. Pete Polls (4/8; 903 FL-13 registered voters) tested a hypothetical re-match general election campaign between newly-elected Rep. David Jolly (R) and former Florida CFO and 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink. The data shows a similar result to that which we saw in the March 11th special election won by the late Rep. Bill Young’s former congressional aide and lobbyist. If the election were held the day of the poll, Rep. Jolly would cling to a 48-46% lead. Ms. Sink has not yet committed to running again, but has admitted to be “considering” the possibility of launching another campaign.

LA-5: Rep. Vance McAllister (R), elected in a November 2013 special election, is facing calls for his resignation from people such as Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) and Louisiana Republican state chairman Roger Villere after being caught on videotape in an extra-marital affair with a married female staff member. So far, Mr. McAllister has made no comment about his political future. Already potential candidates are beginning to prepare challenge campaigns. Expect decisions to be made within the next few days in relation to whether or not the Congressman will step down.

MI-8: Democrats were hit with some bad news in their quest to become competitive in the open Lansing-anchored 8th District (Rep. Mike Rogers (R) retiring). Ingham County Clerk and former state Representative Barb Byrum says she will not run this year. Ms. Byrum’s mother, Dianne Byrum (D), lost to Rep. Rogers in his initial House election campaign (2000). Ms. Byrum was viewed as perhaps the best possible candidate the Democrats could field. Former state Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop is the leading Republican contender, and has the inside track in the general election, as well. No strong Democrat has yet to come forward. Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett is the only other officially announced Republican candidate.

Governor

MoveOn Polls: The liberal advocacy organization MoveOn.org commissioned gubernatorial polls in several states partnering with Public Policy Polling. All of the surveys were conducted during the first few days of April, and each has a slight Democratic skew. In Kansas, MoveOn/PPP shows challenger Paul Davis, the state House Minority Leader, now taking a 45-41% lead over Gov. Sam Brownback (R). Moving to Maine in the three-way race among Gov. Paul LePage (R), Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME-2), and Independent attorney Eliot Cutler, it is the Democratic challenger who claims a 44-37-14% advantage over the Governor and Mr. Cutler. Four years ago, LePage won a three-way election with a strong Cutler also in the field of candidates. In Georgia, for the first time, a pollster is forecasting Gov. Nathan Deal (R) as trailing state Sen. Jason Carter (D), the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter. According to MoveOn/PPP, the Democratic margin is 43-42%. In Florida, the survey posts former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) to a 49-42% over incumbent Gov. Rick Scott (R). In terms of comparing this group of surveys to others in the public domain, it is the Florida poll that is the most out of line. Other studies place Scott and Crist as running much closer to each other than this seven point spread.

Michigan: The aforementioned Public Policy Polling survey (see Michigan Senate above), also tested the state’s Governor’s race, as incumbent Rick Snyder (R) seeks a second term. PPP forecasts Gov. Snyder to be leading former Rep. Mark Schauer (D-MI-7) 43-39%. They show the Governor with a low 40:48% favorable to unfavorable job approval ratio, however, while Schauer has a 22:23% favorability ratio.

Oregon: Harper Polling (see Oregon Senate above) forecasts weak numbers for three-term Gov. John Kitzhaber (D). The firm projects the Governor to be holding only a 46-43% lead over state Rep. Dennis Richardson (R), and records a job approval rating of 44:42% favorable to unfavorable.

Rhode Island: Brown University (4/3-5; 600 RI registered voters; 395 likely Democratic primary voters) tested the Ocean State’s open Governor’s race for the Democratic primary, which will likely be determinative relating to the general election. The results forecast a tight contest among at least the top two contenders. Brown projects state Treasurer Gina Raimondo to be leading Providence Mayor Angel Tavares, 29-26%. The third candidate, attorney Clay Pell - the grandson of former Sen. Claiborne Pell (D) - lags behind with ten percent support.