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Period Ending May 10, 2013

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

Senate

Georgia: Rep. John Barrow (D-GA-12) announced that he will not run for the US Senate next year, choosing to stay in the House. The Congressman would likely have been the Democrats' best candidate to realize their quest of converting retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss' (R) open seat. Barrow had reiterated to party leaders that he wanted an unopposed primary, something he believed was necessary if he were to raise the millions of dollars required to run a competitive general election campaign. The development means that Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn (D), will likely enter the race. On the Republican side, Reps. Jack Kingston (R-GA-1), Paul Broun (R-GA-10), and Phil Gingrey (R-GA-11) are announced candidates. David Perdue, former Reebok CEO and cousin to two-term Gov. Sonny Perdue (R), is exploring the race. Karen Handel, the former Secretary of State who lost a gubernatorial run-off in 2010, is also a potential candidate. The Barrow decision not to run is a major break for the Republicans.

Iowa: Rep. Steve King (R-IA-4) announced that he will not run for retiring Sen. Tom Harkin's (D) open Senate seat. In addition to Mr. King, Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA-3), and state Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey have all declined to run for the Republican Senatorial nomination. Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA-1) already appears to be the consensus Democratic candidate. Right now, the GOP is without a major candidate, but that will soon change.

Massachusetts: Public Policy Polling (5/1-2; 1,539 MA registered voters) released the first public poll for the special Senatorial general election scheduled for June 25th. According to its surprising results, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-5) only leads Republican nominee Gabriel Gomez by a 44-40% margin. MassInc for WBUR Public Television also went into the field (5/5-6; 497 MA registered voters) and found Markey to be leading by a similar 41-35%. Suffolk University (5/4-7; 500 MA likely voters) had a different take, posting the Congressman to a 52-35% advantage. The trio of surveys suggests the general race will be more competitive than first believed.

South Dakota: Democrat Rick Weiland, a former staff member to Sen. Tom Daschle (D), announced his intention to run for the retiring Sen. Tim Johnson's (D) open seat. The move increases speculation that US Attorney Brendan Johnson, the Senator's son, will not run. In fact, Weiland said he would not be entering the race himself if he thought Mr. Johnson would become a candidate. Without Johnson or former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD-AL) as the Democratic nominee, former Gov. Mike Rounds (R) becomes the prohibitive favorite to convert this seat for the GOP.

West Virginia: The MBE research firm (Mark Blankenship Enterprises) of Charleston, WV released the results of their new Mountaineer State survey (5/1-2; 406 WV registered voters) and it shows little movement in the open Senate race. Though the Democrats do not yet have an announced candidate to replace retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D), MBE tested Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, an unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate, and state Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis in a hypothetical Democratic primary contest. According to the results, Tennant is favored by a 40-12% split. Davis was the only candidate tested against Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2), who remains the only official candidate in the race. In this ballot test, Capito leads 51-32%, which is consistent with other polls taken earlier in the year.

House

IL-10: Former Rep. Bob Dold (R), who was defeated last November in a gerrymandered district after serving one term, announced that he will seek a re-match with freshman Rep. Brad Schneider (D). Dold lost the 2012 race by a very tight 50.6 - 49.4% margin, some 3,326 votes of more than 264,000 cast. Though the district is now heavily Democratic, favorite son President Barack Obama will not be leading the Illinois Democratic ticket (57.5% in IL-10) in 2014, and the turnout model will likely be quite different. This will become a competitive race next year.

SC-1: Scandal-ridden former Gov. Mark Sanford (R) completed his unlikely political comeback bid with a 54-45% special congressional election victory over Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch. More than 77,000 people supported Sanford in a special election that drew more than 143,000 voters, a high figure for such a race. The Congressman-elect will likely be a strong favorite to win a full term in 2014, since the district is heavily Republican. When Mr. Sanford is sworn in, only one seat, that of resigned Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO-8), will be vacant.

TX-4: Rep. Ralph Hall (R), who just turned 90 years of age earlier this month, announced that he will seek an 18th term in the House next year. This year, 2013, marks the 100th anniversary of former House Speaker Sam Rayburn's (D) first year in Congress. In that span of time, only Rayburn, Hall, and 19-year congressional veteran Ray Roberts (D; 1962-1981) have represented this northeast Texas district.

Governor

Alaska: Gov. Sean Parnell (R) announced that he will seek re-election next year, ending speculation that he might hop into the Senate race to challenge first-term incumbent Mark Begich (D). The Governor begins as a strong favorite to win a second term in office.

Massachusetts: Public Policy Polling, as part of their Massachusetts survey (see MA-Senate in this report), also tested some hypothetical 2014 gubernatorial contests. Former Sen. Scott Brown (R) fares the best among both Republicans and Democrats. He would lead interim Sen. Mo Cowan (D) 48-31%; his margin over state Treasurer Steve Grossman (D) is 46-34%; the Brown advantage is 45-38% over Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA-7) and 43-39% if Secretary of State Bill Galvin were the Democratic nominee. Meanwhile, Brown continues to explore a Senatorial run in neighboring New Hampshire.

Michigan: Two MI gubernatorial polls were released this week, both showing similar results. According to EPIC-MRA, a Michigan-based polling firm that often conducts surveys for local news organizations, and the Garin Hart Yang Research Group for the Democratic Governors Association, Gov. Rick Snyder (R) continues to brandish poor job approval ratings. EPIC scored him 38:58% favorable to unfavorable, while GHY detected a similar 38:60% ratio. But, the negative approval ratings, while clearly showing weakness, aren't returning disastrous ballot test readings. EPIC-MRA (4/13-16; 600 MI registered voters) projected Gov. Snyder to be trailing ex-Rep. Mark Schauer (D-MI-7) by a single point, 38-39%, and leading former Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI-1) by the same 39-38% count. Obviously, Snyder's standing is low since he is nowhere close to 50% support, but the head-to-head numbers are not commensurate with his highly negative job approval index. GHY (4/10-15; 600 MI registered voters) only released Snyder's score against a Democratic generic placebo. On that scale, Snyder led 40-38%.

New Jersey: NBC News/Marist College also surveyed the Garden State (4/28-5/2; 1,080 NJ registered voters) and, like all other pollsters, found Gov. Chris Christie (R) to be standing strong for re-election. Their results show Christie leading state Sen. Barbara Buono (D), the consensus Democratic candidate, by a huge 60-28% margin. In terms of party support, a whopping 94% of sampled Republicans support Christie, versus only 51% of registered Democrats who claim to be backing Buono.

Pennsylvania: With Gov. Tom Corbett's (R) approval numbers languishing in upside down territory for a period of months, the Keystone State chief executive finally received some good news. Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce Castor (R), who came close to Corbett in a 2004 Republican primary race for Attorney General and was publicly considering challenging the Governor for re-nomination, says he will not run. Corbett continues to lag behind several potential Democratic nominees in early ballot tests and may be the most politically vulnerable Republican Governor in the nation.

Virginia: The Washington Post released a new poll of the Virginia Governor's race and projected the largest margin for either candidate so far in the race. Surprisingly, the leader is Republican Ken Cuccinelli who the Post projects to a ten-point advantage (51-41%) among likely voters. The Washington Post Media poll (4/29-5/2; 887 VA registered voters) gave Cuccinelli a 46-41% lead among all voters. Cuccinelli and Democratic consensus candidate Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman, have been locked in a dead heat contest for weeks, according to multiple pollsters. We can expect this race to draw great attention throughout 2013. NBC News/Marist College also surveyed the state during the same time period (4/28-5/2; 692 VA likely voters) and found the Attorney General to have a 45-42% advantage. NBC did find that among 1,095 registered voters, however, Mr. McAuliffe held a slight 43-41% edge.