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Period Ending April 25, 2014

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

Senate

Colorado: Three pollsters, Public Policy Polling, Quinnipiac University, and Fabrizio Lee surveying for the US Chamber of Commerce, went into the field in mid-April and came to the same conclusion as all other pollsters: that is, that the contest between Sen. Mark Udall (D) and Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO-4) is a virtual tie. While PPP and Quinnipiac forecast a two-point spread in Sen. Udall’s favor, Fabrizio Lee projects Rep. Gardner with that same edge.

Crossroads Polling: Karl Rove’s organization, American Crossroads, commissioned Harper Polling to conduct surveys in five key Senatorial states. Data in Arkansas (Sen. Mark Pryor (D) 39%; Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR-4) 39%) refutes most other polling that now gives the Democratic incumbent a slight lead. They also project Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA-6) to a 47-43% advantage over Sen. Mary Landrieu (D), which is different than the margins most polls have produced. The Harper/Crossroads surveys are in accordance with other published polls relating to Colorado (Sen. Mark Udall (D) 45%; Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO-4) 43%); Michigan (Ex-SoS Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R) 43%; Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI-14) 40%); and Montana (Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT-AL) 42%; Sen. John Walsh (D) 45%).

Georgia: As the crowded Georgia Republican primary draws nearer, the activity level is significantly increasing. A new Insider Advantage poll (4/13-15; 804 GA registered voters; automated) again places businessman David Perdue in the lead, but with only 19% of the respondents’ support. In second place, four points behind, is Savannah Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA-1). Former Secretary of State Karen Handel places third at 13%, followed by Athens Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA-10) posting 11%, and Marietta Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA-11) registering nine percent. The data again suggests that any combination of the candidates can still qualify for what will assuredly be a run-off election. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the campaign is Mr. Gingrey’s performance. Originally thought to be one of the top contenders, if not the outright favorite to make the run-off, has run a rather lackluster effort and is in clear danger of being eliminated in the May 20th primary.

Kansas: Last weeks reports broke that outgoing Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius (D) was considering opposing veteran Sen. Pat Roberts (R) this year. Very quickly after the reports publicly surfaced, Ms. Sebelius backtracked and said she has no plans to run for the Senate.

New York Times/Kaiser Foundation Polling: A series of controversial Senate polls were released into the public domain, with even the liberal Daily Kos organization calling the data reliability into question. All of the polls skew toward the Democratic candidates because the presidential vote question illuminates what is likely a faulty sample draw. Finding Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), who is widely regarded as being in a difficult re-election race, with a large 42-18% lead over Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA-6), for example, calls the projections into question. According to the Louisiana responses, President Obama would have carried the state by a margin of three points. In reality, Republican nominee Mitt Romney won the Bayou State by a 17+ point margin. Similar numbers occurred in Arkansas. There, the polling respondents gave Romney only a three point edge when, in actuality, he carried the state by 23 percentage points. The 2014 poll gives Sen. Mark Pryor (D) a ten-point advantage over Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR-4). The pollsters point out that the Obama percentage is close to what he received in all of the tested states on Election Day 2012, and claims the people opting not to answer the presidential question or forgetting whom they supported are Romney voters. Yet, we see this phenomenon in no other polling. The preponderance of currently available data suggests a difficult re-election for all of the Democrats in politically marginal states. Therefore, this particular NYT/Kaiser research must be considered an outlier.

North Carolina: According to a Survey USA poll for the conservative Civitas Institute (4/16-22; 392 NC Republican primary voters), NC Speaker of the House Thom Tillis may be finally breaking away from the Republican pack of candidates who are contending for the Republican nomination. The results show Mr. Tillis approaching the 40% figure necessary to avoid a run-off in the Tar Heel State. The data yields 39% for Tillis; physician Greg Brannon is second with 20%, while Charlotte pastor Mark Harris posted 15%. All other candidates are in single-digits. The eventual Republican nominee faces vulnerable Sen. Kay Hagan (D) in the November election.

Oklahoma: A Public Opinion Strategies poll (4/21-22; 500 OK registered voters), for the first time, shows former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon (R) now taking a lead against Rep. James Lankford (R-OK-5). The data portends a 42-32% Shannon advantage, which represents a mammoth 45-point swing since the firm’s first poll was released in early February. The Oklahoma primary is June 24th. A run-off, if no one secures an outright majority, will occur on August 26th. In all likelihood, the primary election will produce a nominee since only two of the seven candidates are major and have the ability to win the nomination.

House

FL-13: On the heels of former Democratic nominee Alex Sink saying she would not seek a re-match with newly elected Rep. David Jolly (R) this November, the Democrats now have a new candidate. Manuel Sykes, the president of the St. Petersburg NAACP, says he will challenge Rep. Jolly in November. With his upset victory in the March special election, the new Congressman definitely has the inside track to victory later in the year in this marginal seat.

FL-19: Businessman Curt Clawson, campaigning as “The Outsider”, won the special Republican primary on April 22nd with 38% of the vote, defeating state Senate Majority Leader Lisbeth Benacquisto (26%), former state Rep. Paige Kreegel (25%), and businessman Michael Dreikorn (11%). Clawson will now face Democratic nominee April Freeman in the June 24th special general election. The Republican nature of the Ft. Myers anchored seat gives Clawson a huge advantage. The winner serves for the balance of the current congressional session and will immediately be placed on the 2014 regular primary ballot. The new member will stand for a full term in November. Mr. Clawson reported spent more than $2 million of his own money to win the seat.

MI-14: As candidate filing was closing in Michigan, former Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI-13), who was defeated two years ago in his first renomination primary by fellow Rep. Gary Peters (D) who is now running for Senate, entered the open seat congressional race. The seat will be decided in the Democratic primary. Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence and state Rep. Rudy Hobbs are already in the Democratic primary. It is unclear how the late-starting Clarke’s entry will affect the campaign.

MN-6: After delegates to the local nominating convention gave 76% of their first ballot votes to former state Rep. and 2010 gubernatorial nominee Tom Emmer (R), the candidate released an internal Public Opinion Strategies poll (4/16-17; 300 MN-6 registered voters) projecting him to an even larger 79-4-3% advantage over Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah and former state Rep. Phil Krinkie, respectively. The latter two candidates say they are committed to forcing a primary election on August 12th. Normally in Minnesota politics, after the state convention tabs nominees, the losing candidates typically end their campaigns.

VA-10: On April 26th, Republican voters will participate in what is termed a “firehouse” primary to nominate a candidate to succeed retiring Rep. Frank Wolf (R). Only eleven polling places are authorized for the entire congressional district. Voters must also sign a loyalty pledge saying they will support the Republican nominee in the general election in order to be granted a ballot. State Delegate and former Republican National Committee official Barbara Comstock is favored to win the unusual nominating event. Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust is unopposed for the Democratic nomination. The Republican nominee has the general election edge.

WV-3: While several polls have depicted seventeen-term incumbent Nick Rahall (D) as trailing his likely general election opponent, state Sen. Evan Jenkins (R), by substantial margins a new internal Democratic survey from the Garin Hart Yang Research Group (4/15-16; 400 WV-3 registered voters) gives the Congressman a double-digit lead. This data posts Mr. Rahall to a 52-40% advantage. The southern West Virginia seat prepares to host its most competitive campaign in decades.

WI-6: Action is occurring on the Democratic side of the 6th District situation, as everyone is now responding to veteran Rep. Tom Petri’s (R) unexpected retirement announcement. Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris (D) confirms that he will run for the open seat, giving the Democratic Party leaders likely their best possible candidate. The Republican field includes state Sen. Glenn Grothman, state Assemblyman Duey Stroebel, and former gubernatorial aide John Hiller. The seat is strongly Republican, but Harris could bring it into the competitive realm. The primary is August 12th.

Governor

Colorado: Two of the three pollsters mentioned in the Colorado Senate paragraph above, Public Policy Polling and Quinnipiac University, also tested the gubernatorial campaign and found similar results. The data from both surveys give Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) a seven to ten point lead over all potential Republican candidates: former Rep. Bob Beauprez (R-CO-7), Secretary of State Scott Gessler, and former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO-6).

Iowa: Public Policy Polling for the Progress Iowa liberal organization (4/19-20; 677 IA registered voters) returned numbers that indicate Gov. Terry Branstad (R) could be in for a closer contest that appeared just a few months ago. This particular survey projects the Governor to be ahead of state Sen. Jack Hatch (D) by only a five-point spread, 43-38%.

Kansas: After several weeks of witnessing vulnerable polling results, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) received some better news from Rasmussen Reports (4/16-17; 750 KS registered voters). According to this poll, the Governor is back up to a 47-40% lead over state House Minority Leader Paul Davis, the consensus Democratic candidate.