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Period Ending May 29, 2015

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

President

Gov. John Kasich (R): Ohio Gov. Kasich reportedly will enter the presidential campaign, and plans to formally announce his declaration after June 30th. Republicans are now on track to feature 17 to 18 individual presidential candidates, a record number. Gov. Kasich, fresh from a huge 64% re-election victory should become a formidable candidate. If he were to be nominated, any two-term Ohio Governor sets up well for a general election.

Q-Poll: Quinnipiac University (5/19-26; 1,711 US registered voters; 679 likely Republican primary voters; 748 likely Democratic voters) tested the 2016 presidential contest and finds a five-way tie for the Republican lead. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, Ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker are all tied with 10% of the vote. The remaining 11 tested candidates all fall between 1-7%. For the Democrats, Hillary Clinton easily tops the entire Democratic field with 57% preference, though questions about her trustworthiness continue to dog her. A majority of respondents do not find her to be honest and trustworthy.

Pennsylvania: Public Policy Polling surveyed the Keystone State electorate (5/21-24; 799 PA registered voters; 385 likely Democratic primary voters; 334 likely Republican primary voters), and found Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leading their respective nomination contests in the Keystone State. Ms. Clinton has a commanding 63-14-6% lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and ex-Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-MD), while Walker is up five points over a trio of Republicans: Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), Dr. Ben Carson, and former PA Sen. Rick Santorum. Ex-Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) posts 11%, while Floridians Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio register 9% support apiece. In general election match-ups, Ms. Clinton leads in every instance, the closest being only a one-point 46-45% edge over Sen. Rubio, however. Her biggest margin among the nine individual opponent pairings comes against former Gov. Bush, leading him 49-38%.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I): As planned based upon public statements made earlier in the month, Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders officially launched his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. He denies his campaign is only designed to move party front-runner Hillary Clinton to the left. The Senator reiterated that he is in the race to win. While his chances of attaining victory are poor, he will add a degree of entertainment to what could become a rather dull Democratic preliminary campaign.

Santorum, O’Malley, & Pataki: Former Pennsylvania Senator and 2012 presidential candidate Rick Santorum (R), ex-Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), and former three-term New York Gov. George Pataki (R) all officially announced their 2016 candidacies this week. Santorum won 11 states in the 2012 race. O’Malley could emerge as the strongest challenger to Hillary Clinton, and though a long shot candidate, ex-Gov. Pataki proved he can win from behind when we unseated liberal icon Gov. Mario Cuomo (D) after three terms in 1994.

Gov. Scott Walker (R): Appearing on the Laura Ingraham national radio program, Wisconsin’s Gov. Walker intimated that he might skip Florida as he builds a strategy to win the Republican presidential nomination. Though the Sunshine State is the largest in the Winner-Take-All category, Walker maintains that the presence of both favorite sons, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio, leaves little room for anyone else. With the heavy expense of campaigning there and little chance of winning any delegates, Walker’s rather surprising pronouncement does have clear strategic value.

Senate

Arizona: Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-1) announced that she will challenge Sen. John McCain (R) next year. The move has the underpinnings of a competitive campaign, since McCain’s job approval is poor and Kirkpatrick has won three times in a marginal political district. The Arizona race will now likely become a top tier contest.

Nevada: Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV-1), succumbing to Democratic Party leadership pressure that is strongly behind former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D) for the open Senatorial nomination, announced she will not pursue a US Senate bid, but instead will seek re-election to her safe Las Vegas congressional district. Republicans are expected to field Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV-3), meaning a general election campaign between Masto and Heck is now a probability. Such a race would begin with a toss-up rating.

Pennsylvania: The Democrats failed to recruit their top 2016 Senate prospect as Montgomery County Commission chairman Josh Shapiro said he will not run statewide next year. The Democratic leadership has made no secret that they want a different candidate than 2010 nominee and former Congressman Joe Sestak (D-PA-7). Despite losing 49-51% to Sen. Pat Toomey, the Democrats believe a fresh candidate would do better. But, a new Public Policy Polling survey (5/21-24; 799 PA registered voters) provides data that does not necessarily support such an inference. According to the PPP data, Toomey would lead Sestak by only a 42-38% margin, by far the best showing of any Democrat tested against the first-term Senator. Pennsylvania’s voting history suggests that next year’s Senate race will again be close regardless of who the Democrats’ finally nominate.

House

Arizona Redistricting: The US Supreme Court will soon rule on the Arizona Republicans challenge to the state’s congressional map. They argue that the Constitution gives redistricting power only to state legislatures and not citizens’ commissions. A decision is expected before the end of June. If the AZ Republicans win, the Arizona map will be sent to the legislature to be re-drawn. Other congressional commission states such as California, New Jersey, and Washington will likely also be swept into the ruling meaning major mid-decade redistricting action.

Governor

Indiana: Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz (D), as expected, will formally announce her gubernatorial campaign next week. Ritz will join former state House Speaker and 2012 gubernatorial nominee John Gregg and state Sen. Karen Tallian in the Democratic primary. The winner faces Gov. Mike Pence (R) in the 2016 regular election.

Kentucky: The Secretary of State has completed the re-canvass of the May 19th Republican primary election and finds that businessman Matt Bevin’s 83-vote margin of victory will stand. Bevin has now defeated Agriculture Commissioner James Comer barring any re-count action. Under Kentucky law, a challenger may request a re-count, but must finance the entire process. It is unclear if Comer will pursue further action. As it now stands, Bevin will face Attorney General Jack Conway (D) in the general election. Bevin, who lost a primary challenge against Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) last year, will be painted as an extreme conservative. He won the gubernatorial primary by staying above the negative campaign Comer and former Louisville Metro Councilor Hal Heiner ran against each other, portraying himself as a positive alternative to them both. The early general election rankings will favor Conway. Kentucky is a strongly Republican state in federal elections, but Democrats still do well at the state level. Gov. Steve Beshear (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.