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Period Ending April 17, 2020

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

President

Rep. Justin Amash: Michigan Independent Rep. Justin Amash (I-Cascade Township/Grand Rapids) again made a public statement confirming that he is considering entering the 2020 presidential race either as the Libertarian Party nominee or as an Independent. Mr. Amash tweeted yesterday, that "Americans who believe in limited government deserve another option." He went onto say that he is "closely" looking whether to begin a national campaign during this week.

Former President Barack Obama: Former President Barack Obama has now officially endorsed his former Vice President for the party nomination and, of course, in the general election against President Trump. The move is unsurprising at this point since Mr. Biden has all but locked up the nomination since all of his major opponents have now dropped out of the race.

The Obama endorsement, viewed as a typical move for all ex-Presidents to endorse the nominee of his party, largely becomes a non-event. It would have mattered greatly to Mr. Biden early in the process, however, when he could have used the support from Mr. Obama to put distance between himself and his many intra-party opponents.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), late this week in a joint video address with Joe Biden, officially endorsed the former Vice President as the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee. In his statement, Sen. Sanders said, "I am asking all Americans, I'm asking every Democrat, I'm asking every independent, I'm asking a lot of Republicans, to come together in this campaign to support your (Mr. Biden's) candidacy, which I endorse."

Arizona: OH Predictive Insights, a Phoenix-based survey research firm that often polls the Grand Canyon State electorate, finds former Vice President Joe Biden opening up a large lead over President Trump in what could be a determinative state, nationally. According to the OH data (4/7-8; 600 AZ likely general election voters), Mr. Biden holds a nine-point, 52-43%, advantage. Arizona is critical to President Trump's prospects because it is one of five states that voted for him in 2016 that he must keep in his 2020 coalition in order to be positioned favorably in the remaining swing states.

North Carolina: Harper Polling conducted a statewide North Carolina survey (4/5-7; 500 NC likely general election voters) and posts President Trump to a substantial 49-42% advantage over former Vice President Joe Biden. The spread is significant because Mr. Trump under-polled here four years ago. The final three 2016 North Carolina surveys, from three different pollsters, found Hillary Clinton holding a combined 1.3 percentage point average advantage, but Mr. Trump won on election day with almost a four-point spread. Therefore, the President holding a seven-point lead at a time when his national polling was on a downward slide suggests that he has strength in what is one of his coalition's most critically important swing states.

Wisconsin: The Democratic polling firm Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group (4/6-8; 301 WI likely general election voters) finds a virtual tie between Mr. Biden and President Trump in another nationally significant state. Though this poll is based upon a small sample of only 301 respondents, it does forecast a close contest in a state projected to be tight. Therefore, the numbers do appear realistic. The results find Mr. Biden leading President Trump, 48-47%. In 2016, Mr. Trump carried the state over Hillary Clinton with a 47.2 - 46.5% margin.

Senate

Arizona: Phoenix-based OH Predictive Insights, that earlier released their presidential ballot test (4/7-8; 600 AZ likely general election voters) finding former Vice President Joe Biden leading President Trump 52-43%, not surprisingly forecasts Senate candidate Mark Kelly (D) to be holding a substantial advantage over appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R). As with the presidential race, the spread is nine points, or 51-42% in this case. Other polling trends have also found Mr. Kelly, a retired astronaut, to be holding a lead but with a lesser margin.

Kansas: Confirming Democratic political spin that their nominee has a chance to win the open Kansas Senate race if former Secretary of State and defeated 2019 gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach wins the 2020 Republican nomination, a just released Public Policy Polling survey (4/13-14; 1,271 KS registered voters via automated response device) finds state Sen. Barbara Bollier (D-Mission Hills) taking a small two point lead over Mr. Kobach, 44-42%.

PPP, however, did not test either of the other Senate GOP candidates against Ms. Bollier, US Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend) or state Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita). It is believed they would both run a stronger general election campaign.

Massachusetts: Last week we reported that Sen. Ed Markey (D) had fallen behind in obtaining the 10,000 ballot petition signatures to qualify for the September 1st primary ballot. Others around the state are apparently finding themselves in a similar situation especially since the required number of petition signatures to access the ballot is unusually large. A new bill in the legislature would halve the requirement in response to the COVID-19 situation that keeps ground operation petition gathering signature efforts sidelined. It is likely that the bill will pass.

North Carolina: On Wednesday, the Republican firm Harper Polling released their North Carolina survey (4/5-7; 500 NC likely general election voters) that gave first term Sen. Thom Tillis (R) a 38-34% edge over former state Sen. Cal Cunningham (D). A day later, Public Policy Polling, a Democratic pollster, released very different numbers. In their survey (4/14-15; 1,318 NC registered voters via interactive voice response system and text), PPP finds Mr. Cunningham holding a seven-point lead over Sen. Tillis, 47-40%.

Oklahoma: The Oklahoma candidate filing deadline passed on April 10th, and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R) has drawn three Republican and four Democratic opponents, but none seem to be top tier candidates. For the Democrats, the likely nominee appears to be former television reporter Abby Broyles, but Sen. Inhofe remains a heavy favorite to again win re-election in November.

House

GA-6: North Star Opinion Research just released a poll they completed during mid-March (3/15-17; GA-6 registered voters via live interviews) that found former US Rep. Karen Handel (R) developing a small lead over freshman Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Marietta). The Congresswoman, who unseated Ms. Handel in 2018, trails her former opponent by a slim two-point margin, 49-47%, while the generic vote question split evenly between the two sides with each party being the choice of 46% of the sample respondents. Perhaps the most significant finding for Ms. Handel was her 50-42% margin among self-identified Independents. This race should be considered a toss-up.

MT-AL: It is clear that former state Representative and 2018 at-large congressional nominee Kathleen Williams is primed to again become her party's statewide candidate. Ms. Williams announced that she will report $486,000 raised for the 1st quarter 2020, with $1.1 million cash-on-hand. Her Democratic primary opponent, state Rep. Tom Winter (D-Missoula), raised only $74,000 and has just $88,000 in his campaign account. The winner will face a strong open seat Republican candidate in the general election, most likely State Auditor and 2018 US Senate nominee Matt Rosendale (R). Incumbent Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Bozeman) is running for Governor.

NJ-2: Mental health advocate Amy Kennedy, wife of former US Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), may not have as much institutional New Jersey Democratic Party support in her race to eventually face party-switching GOP incumbent Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis Township/Cape May), but she will have more early campaign resources. In announcing fundraising numbers just before the campaign disclosure deadline, Ms. Kennedy will report raising $566,000, of which $250,000 was self-contributed, as compared to college professor Brigid Callahan Harrison's $213,000 raised, of which $101,000 was self-contributed.

Governor/States

Maryland: Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who first moved Maryland's April 28th primary to June 2nd as a Coronavirus precaution, signed legislation to send all voters an absentee ballot and limit the number of in-person polling places for the upcoming intra-party contests.

New Hampshire: If the Coronavirus is still a major threat before the state's September 8th primary, Secretary of State Bill Gardner (D) and legislative leaders agreed that they will suspend the absentee ballot requirement that a voter have an excuse for not voting in person.

North Carolina: The aforementioned Harper Polling North Carolina survey (4/5-7; 500 NC likely general election voters) also included testing the state's 2020 gubernatorial race, as did the data coming from Public Policy Polling (4/14-15; 1,318 NC registered voters via interactive voice response system and text). The Harper gubernatorial ballot test yields a 50-33% margin in Gov. Roy Cooper's favor over Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who won the Republican nomination on March 3rd. PPP found an almost identical 50-36% spread. These combined numbers confirm that Gov. Cooper is a strong early favorite for re-election in a state famous for hosting very close political contests.

South Carolina: The state legislature convened for one day at the end of last week to consider legislation to consider the State Election Commission recommendations that the excuse provision for obtaining an absentee ballot be waived for the June 9th primary and subsequent June 23rd runoff elections. The state Senate, however, recessed without passing the bill. Therefore, at this point, the South Carolina primary will be conducted with no procedural changes.

Utah: News stories broke in late March that former Gov. Jon Huntsman's campaign submitted invalid petition signatures to the degree that more than one-third of the total were rejected, putting his campaign in a major hole since the qualification deadline was fast approaching. Utah has a high petition signature requirement of 28,000, and Huntsman's campaign was scrambling when finding they were more than 11,000 names short of the bare minimum with time elapsing and the state shut down due to Coronavirus precautions. Late this week, Utah state election officials confirmed that the former Governor had submitted enough verified legal signatures to attain a primary ballot listing regardless of what happens at the April 25th virtual Utah Republican nominating convention.

It is likely, however, that Mr. Huntsman and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox advance to the June 23rd Republican primary from the convention. While early polling favored Mr. Huntsman, recent data suggests that Mr. Cox has assumed the lead. Former state House Speaker Greg Hughes and businessman Jeff Burningham may also be on the ballot, but they will likely have to qualify only through the signature route as opposed to obtaining at least 40% support at the virtual state convention.