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Period Ending June 26, 2015

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This weekly roundup of election news and notes is compiled for Thompson Coburn by the PRIsm Information Network.

President

Chris Christie (R): Sources close to New Jersey Gov. Christie indicate that he will formally announce his presidential campaign next week. Christie, who was once near the top of the Republican field, now languishes in the second tier largely due to poor approval ratings.

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R): Louisiana Gov. Jindal officially announced his national effort on Thursday, becoming the 14th Republican candidate. It is likely the huge GOP field will top out between 17-19 participants. Mr. Jindal is viewed as a long shot for the nomination, and clearly starts out in an underdog position.

Suffolk University: The SU Political Research Center (6/18-22; 500 NH highly to moderately likely Republican primary voters) finds businessman Donald Trump climbing into second place in their latest New Hampshire poll. In first, is ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush with 14%, followed by Trump’s 11%, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker registering 8%. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) posts 7%, closely followed by Dr. Ben Carson at six percent. The remaining 14 candidates all poll at 5% or less.

Senate

Arkansas: Even though former Gov. Mike Beebe (D) says he has no desire to return to the political arena, Hendrix College/Talk Business & Politics (administered by the Impact Management Group) surveyed the Arkansas electorate as they commonly do (6/8-11; 1,183 AR registered voters), and tested him against Sen. John Boozman (R). The data shows that Beebe would clearly be the Democrats’ strongest choice, and likely the only member of their party who could currently unseat the first-term Senator. If such a race were occurring today, Beebe would lead Sen. Boozman, 45-37% despite the incumbent brandishing a strong 42:21% favorable to unfavorable job approval ratio. There is no indication that Mr. Beebe will enter the Senate race.

Colorado: Another potential Republican Senatorial candidate has taken himself out of contention. Former state Senate Republican Leader Mike Kopp says he will not enter the 2016 campaign. State Senate President Pro Tem Ellen Roberts (R) also officially declined to run this week. So far, no major Republican has yet stepped forward to challenge incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet (D).

Florida: The Vox Populi polling organization surveyed the Florida Senate Democratic primary (6/15-17; 717 FL Democratic primary voters) and finds Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18) leading fellow Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL-9), 34-24%. Mr. Murphy is an announced Senate candidate, while Mr. Grayson promises a decision later in the year. Push questions were used, all slanted in favor of Grayson, and on issues relating to welfare, budget, Wall Street, and Mr. Murphy being a former Republican who contributed to the 2008 Romney for President campaign, the ballot test flips to Grayson’s favor. Meanwhile, Florida Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera (R) has scheduled a statewide announcement for July 15th. It appears he will officially enter the Senate race at that time. Next week, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL-1) is scheduling an announcement, suggesting that he, too, will become a statewide candidate. Mr. Miller will be the only candidate from Florida’s northern Panhandle.

Kentucky: Though Sen. Rand Paul (R) is attempting to simultaneously run for President and re-election, a new Public Policy Polling survey (6/18-21; 1,108 KY registered voters) finds him in strong position for another Senate race. Long believed that outgoing Gov. Steve Beshear (D) would be his strongest opponent, Sen. Paul leads him 49-39% in a hypothetical contest. Gov. Beshear gives no indication that he is considering running for the Senate. If retiring Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen (D) were the Democratic Senatorial nominee, Mr. Paul would enjoy a 51-37% advantage over her.

New Hampshire: The question of whether or not Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) will challenge Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) will soon be answered. The Governor says she will make a decision after the legislative session ends on or around July 1st, or later if the budget deliberations continue to drag. Previously viewed as a likely contender, recent actions suggest that the Governor may opt to seek re-election instead of challenging a sitting incumbent. Should Ms. Hassan pass on the Senate race expect Rep. Annie Kuster (D-NH-2) and former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH-1) to attract attention as potential statewide candidates.

North Carolina: Though she would be in the best position of any Democrat to make a competitive challenge to Sen. Richard Burr (R), ex-Sen. Kay Hagan (D) says she will not return to the political arena in 2016. Though Hagan appeared to be Burr’s strongest potential opponent, she never came within the polling margin of error against him. Sen. Burr will likely face second tier opposition, and must be regarded as a heavy favorite to win a third term.

House

FL-13: Though Rep. David Jolly (R) caught a major break in 2014 when Democrats failed to file a candidate against him, he will see no such luck repeat itself next year. Already, two Democrats have announced their candidacy with a third soon to follow. Former Obama Administration official Eric Lynn and ex-Tampa City Councilwoman Mary Mulhern will enter the Democratic primary. St. Petersburg City Councilwoman Darden Rice will reportedly follow suit after the 4th of July. Former Democratic nominee Jessica Ehrlich, who ran against venerable Rep. Bill Young (R) before he passed away during the last Congress, says she will endorse Rice should the Councilwoman enter the race. Mulhern, from Tampa, may not be well received in coming across Tampa Bay to run in the Pinellas County CD. The general election campaign should be competitive.

KY-3: Rep. John Yarmuth (D) put retirement rumors to bed, and announced that he will seek a sixth term in 2016. Little opposition to his re-election bid is expected.

MI-1: Rep. Dan Benishek (R), who has won re-election victories with 48 and 52%, will face another strong challenger next year. Former Michigan Democratic Party chairman Lon Johnson made official his candidacy late this week. 2012 nominee Jerry Cannon (D), a former Sheriff and military officer, is considering running again though the party establishment was not pleased with his disappointing congressional effort in the last election cycle. This race will likely be competitive once again.

NV-4: Rep. Cresent Hardy (R), representing a seat that gave 54% of its votes to President Obama in 2012 and has a combined minority population of over 39%, is rated as one of the most vulnerable Republicans standing for re-election next year. Public Policy Polling (6/17-18; 435 NV-4 likely Democratic primary voters) tested the budding Democratic primary for candidate Lucy Flores, a former state Assemblywoman and Lt. Governor nominee. According to the results, she would lead state Sen. Ruben Kihuen (D) and school board president Susie Lee (D), 30-8-8%.

PA-6: Republican-turned-Democrat Mike Parrish, who entered the 2014 congressional race for a short time, will return to challenge freshman Rep. Ryan Costello (R) next year. The 6th District is politically marginal, and Democrats may get a turnout boost in a presidential election year. Rep. Costello, however, won a convincing 56-44% win over two-time Democratic nominee Dr. Manan Trivedi in 2014.

TX-21: Businessman Matt McCall, who comes from the Tea Party wing of the local Republican Party, says he will again challenge Rep. Lamar Smith in the 2016 Republican primary. In 2014, McCall held Rep. Smith to a 60-34% re-nomination victory despite spending only $130,000. Rep. Smith does not appear to be in any danger of losing to McCall, but he will again take no chances with his primary campaign. The Congressman’s war chest was over $750,000 in March of this year, and could move much closer to $1 million when the new disclosure reports are publicized in July.

Governor

Kentucky: The aforementioned PPP poll (see Kentucky Senate above) surprisingly finds new Republican gubernatorial nominee Matt Bevin leading Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway, 38-35%. After the bloody Republican primary, it was assumed that Conway would jump out to the early lead but the opposite has occurred. This race will likely end in a photo finish. Mr. Bevin won an 83-vote victory in his GOP primary from more than 214,000 ballots cast.

Louisiana: Louisiana-based MarblePort Polling finds the upcoming 2015 Governor’s race remaining stable. According to their June 17th poll of 1,415 LA likely voters, Sen. David Vitter (R) would lead the jungle primary with 34% of the vote. State Rep. John Bel Edwards, the lone Democratic candidate, places second at 28%. Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle (R) and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne (R) follow with 11 and 10%, respectively. Angelle is the candidate moving up. He doubled his early support according to a May Marbleport survey. If retired Army Lt. General Russell Honore were to enter the race as an Independent, he would score in the 8% range and all other candidates seem to reduce support by one percentage point. In potential run-off pairings, Sen. Vitter leads all opponents between 12-25 points.