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Period Ending May 8, 2015

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

President

Dr. Ben Carson (R): One of the new official presidential candidates is former Johns Hopkins pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson. Running for the Republican nomination, Dr. Carson had been polling near the top of the group in early surveys, but now finds himself typically lagging in high single-digits. A long shot candidate who has never before run for office, Dr. Carson has a good chance of attracting positive attention but is likely not a serious contender for winning the nomination.

Hillary Clinton (D): The former Secretary of State and First Lady has agreed to testify before Rep. Trey Gowdy’s (R-SC-4) special Benghazi House committee, and asked that the appearance be scheduled soon. The move is a surprising one to many, as the prevailing political wisdom believed she would fight any move to force her to address the committee. The private email issue is expected to be front and center when she does come before the panel.

Carly Fiorina (R): Former Hewlett Packard CEO Fiorina made formal her intentions to run for President this week, too. Moving to the right, particularly on social issues, Fiorina becomes the only woman in the Republican field. Her only elective experience is losing the 2010 California Senate race to incumbent Barbara Boxer (D) by a 52-42% margin. Ms. Fiorina is not expected to be a top tier candidate.

Mike Huckabee (R): Coming out swinging in an all-out attempt to capture the Christian evangelical vote, former Arkansas Governor and 2008 presidential candidate Huckabee again became an official national contender. Mr. Huckabee won the Iowa Caucus in 2008 by nine points over his closest competitor, Mitt Romney. Therefore, he must be regarded as being in the mix for winning this state, which casts the first ballots of the presidential election cycle and helps set the tone for the future state contests. Huckabee made his announcement in his hometown of Hope, AR, from where, ironically, former President Bill Clinton (D) was also born.

New Hampshire Poll: A new survey from the University of New Hampshire/WMUR-TV (4/24-5/3; 293 NH likely Republican primary voters) projects a result not seen for many weeks – a field of Republican candidates with ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in first place. Though leading the top GOP contenders here, he manages only 15% support. As reported many times previously, a candidate who is universally known but attracting such small support numbers from his own party faithful is not a contender with much ability to grow. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is second with 12%, followed closely by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s 11%, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) with ten percent. The poll’s small sample size makes the error factor high. This survey is methodologically flawed and not of particular significance.

Rick Perry (R): Former Texas Gov. Perry is scheduling “a major announcement” for June 1st. He will almost certainly announce that he is again becoming a presidential candidate. Mr. Perry ran in 2012 and was arguably leading the race before debate gaffes relegated him to the second tier. He will have a difficult time regaining credibility for this race despite his gubernatorial record, which arguably gives him the best economic production resume among all candidates.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I): Vermont Sen. Sanders officially entered the presidential race, becoming Ms. Clinton’s first official nomination opponent. Though elected as an Independent in the House from 1990 through 2004 and to the Senate from 2006 to the present, Mr. Sanders has consistently caucused with the Democrats for purposes of legislative organizing. Sen. Sanders will be the candidate furthest to the left, and his chances of winning the presidential nomination are virtually non-existent.

Gov. Rick Snyder (R): Reports emanating from Michigan say that after testing the national political waters, Gov. Snyder will not enter the presidential contest.

Senate

Arizona: A new Public Policy Polling survey (5/1-3; 600 AZ registered voters; 300 Republican primary voters) suggests that Sen. John McCain (R), running for a sixth term, could have some electoral trouble in both the Republican primary and general election. If Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ-6) were to run, he would pull within one point of the Senator, 39-40%. Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ-5) would do similarly well, 42-44%. Neither of these men is expected to make the race, however. State Sen. Kelli Ward (R), who is forming a Senatorial campaign committee, trails Sen. McCain, 31-44%.

The Democrats have four potential opponents to McCain, none of whom has taken any steps to run. The Democrat faring best is former gubernatorial nominee Fred DuVal, who comes within a 36-40% range. Ex-US Surgeon General and 2012 Senatorial candidate Richard Carmona would draw 34% to McCain’s 40 percent. Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-1) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ-9) fall six points behind the Senator, and score identical 36-42% polling results against him. The fact that McCain is nowhere near 50% in any configuration suggests political trouble. Should other pollsters soon confirm these numbers, Arizona will be quickly moving up on the Democratic target list.

Florida: As expected, Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL-6) officially announced his Senatorial candidacy and immediately the Club for Growth and Freedom Works organizations in conjunction with the Senate Conservatives Fund endorsed his candidacy. The Congressman was first elected in 2012 and has remained true to his conservative principles. Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera continues to send signals that he will soon enter the race. Former Attorney General and Congressman Bill McCollum also is “considering” running. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18), an announced Democratic Senatorial contender, has now received the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee endorsement. Orlando Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL-9) continues to say he is likely to become a Senate candidate and lashed out at the DSCC action supporting Murphy. The Florida seat is open because Sen. Marco Rubio (R) is running for President and projects to be highly competitive in the general election.

New Hampshire: The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute at Dartmouth University conducted a Granite State small-sample poll, something they do on an annual basis. This poll was conducted during the April 27-30 period involving 355 New Hampshire registered voters. In a pairing between Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) and Gov. Maggie Hassan (D), the Senator scores a 38-32% lead. This contrasts Public Policy Polling’s early April survey that gave Hassan a 46-45% edge. Sen. Ayotte’s favorability index according to the Dartmouth numbers is 41:23% favorable to unfavorable. Gov. Hassan has not yet said whether she intends to seek re-election or challenge Sen. Ayotte.

House

FL-6: Rep. Ron DeSantis’ (R) newly open seat has already attracted strong interest from one former US House member. Ex-Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL-24), who spent one term in Congress before losing an incumbent pairing to Rep. John Mica (R-FL-7) in the post-redistricting 2012 campaign, is taking steps to run in this open 6th District. Ms. Adams represented approximately one quarter of this territory during her congressional tenure. Though she will have competition from state legislators and local Daytona area officials, the former Congresswoman will be a strong contender for the Republican nomination. The seat is considered safely Republican.

FL-18: State Rep. Pat Rooney (R), brother of US Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL-17), says he will not run for the open 18th District after previously acknowledging that he was considering making the race. Pat Rooney sites business concerns as his reason for not pursuing the congressional bid. The 18th District, being vacated by Rep. Patrick Murphy’s (D) run for the Senate, is the House Republicans’ top national conversion target.

MS-1: The vacant northern Mississippi congressional special election will be held next Tuesday, with 12 Republicans and one Democrat vying to qualify for the June 2nd run-off election. It’s very difficult to tell who will clinch the two positions, assuming no candidate attracts an outright majority. Money has been difficult to raise, largely because of the extremely large candidate field with no clear front runner. According to public Federal Election Commission reports, the top three spending candidates so far are: physician Starner Jones ($327,000 spent), businessman Boyce Adams ($305,000), and state Transportation Department Commissioner Mike Tagert ($245,000). All are Republicans. The lone Democrat, former Jackson mayoral aide Walter Zinn, had spent only $9,000 at the time of the report. Republicans are virtually assured of holding the seat. The seat is vacant because Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R) passed away in early February.

NY-11: Richmond County District Attorney Dan Donovan (R) won a 59-40% special election victory over New York City Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Brooklyn) in the vacant Staten-Island/Brooklyn congressional district. Donovan was viewed as the prohibitive favorite going into the race and, as such, drew less than 10% voter participation. Democrats virtually conceded the race to Donovan, but promise to make a run for it in the regular election when, they say, the turnout model will be much more favorable. Rep. Michael Grimm (R) resigned the seat at the beginning of the 114th Congress, after pleading guilty for federal tax evasion.

Governor

New Hampshire: The previously mentioned Dartmouth Granite State poll (see New Hampshire in the Senate section of this report) gives Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) a positive 48:23% favorable job approval rating. When paired with Executive Councilor Chris Sununu (R), son of former Gov. John Sununu and brother of ex-Sen. John E. Sununu (R), the Governor scores a 44-26% margin. If Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau (R) were Hassan’s gubernatorial opponent, she would trail the incumbent 13-43%. So, while Gov. Hassan would be in a dogfight with Sen. Ayotte if choosing that race, she becomes a clear favorite for re-election if she remains in her current position.