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Period Ending July 17, 2015

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

President

Donald Trump (R): Appearing before a raucous crowd of more than 4,000 in Phoenix, candidate Trump again railed over the immigration issue. Potentially more problematic to Republicans, he agrees that running as an Independent in the general election should he not be nominated would merit consideration. Trump spending resources in a three-way general election could create the same dynamic that helped Democrat Bill Clinton unseat President George H.W. Bush (R) in 1992.

Gov. Scott Walker (R): Wisconsin Gov. Walker officially declared his long-awaited presidential candidacy, becoming the 16th Republican to do so. Walker’s announcement video suggests he will use an aggressive strategy, as he is already drawing contrasts between himself and the throng of other candidates. The Governor will rely on his accomplishment record to underscore his commitment to core conservative issues, an approach that should bode well in most state Republican primaries and caucuses.

Fundraising: Both Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) are reporting fundraising receipts of over $50 million between their campaigns and Super PACs. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, however, more than doubles their efforts with a $114 million take. Democratic front- runner Hillary Clinton is going to report an accumulation of $45 million.

Polls: Three different polls were released this week, all with significant flaws. Suffolk University found Donald Trump to be leading the Republican primary with 17% of the vote, but their national sample size was an unacceptably low 349 likely GOP primary voters. Monmouth University followed suit and declared Hillary Clinton was leaking support in the Democratic primary because she topped the field with only 51%, but this was before a polling sample of just 357 likely primary voters. Both of these methodologically flawed polls should be ignored. The Associated Press released their Gfk associated survey that proclaimed Ms. Clinton’s favorability rating had dropped to 39% positive. But, the other 18 individuals tested: President Obama and 17 GOP presidential candidates, also recorded a negative personal favorability rating. Only Dr. Ben Carson (R) scored in positive numbers with a 20:15% favorability index.

Senate

Arizona: State Sen. Kelli Ward officially announced her Republican primary opposition to Sen. John McCain this week. Sen. Ward is not viewed as a particularly strong candidate, but the incumbent’s unpopularity within the GOP base could be an indicator that Ms. Ward has some potential of doing well. Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ-5), the first choice among conservatives and Republicans who want to see McCain challenged remains uncommitted about running statewide. It is anticipated that the latter will seek re-election to the House.

Florida: New semi-reliable St. Pete Polls data was released, taken over the July 15-18 period of both open seat Florida Senate primaries. The sample sizes were strong, both over 1,000 in automated questioning, but the demographics were skewed in the Democratic poll. Considering that complication, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL-9) scored a 30-23% lead over fellow Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18). On the Republican side, the geography was skewed, with the Tampa area having a disproportionately high respondent sample. This perhaps led to the strong showing from Pinellas County Rep. David Jolly (R-FL-13), expected to announce his Senate bid next week, who notched 22% support. He was followed by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL-1) at 12%, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera posting 11%, who just announced this week, and Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL-6) registering 6 percent.

Indiana: Rep. Todd Young (R-IN-9), who has already raised over $1 million in his congressional account, announced his campaign for Senate and is hosting “a major political event” on July 18th. He joins fellow Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN-3) and former Indiana Republican Party chairman Eric Holcomb in the GOP race to replace retiring Sen. Dan Coats (R). Former Rep. Baron Hill (D-IN-9) is, so far, the lone Democrat to formally declare his candidacy.

Nevada: Two very different polls were released in the Senate race this week, together revealing a very wide variance. Fabrizio Lee, polling for the US Chamber of Commerce (7/7-8; 500 NV likely voters), finds Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV-3) jumping out to a huge 50-36% advantage over former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D) in what will be a critical Senate race for both sides. But, Public Policy Polling, surveying for the Democrats’ Senate Majority PAC, finds a much different result. Their poll (7/12-14; 677 NV registered voters) gives Masto a slight 42-41% edge.

House

AZ-1: Former Secretary of State Ken Bennett (R) announced that he will run in the open 1st District seat being vacated by Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick’s (D-AZ-1) run for the Senate. He joins rancher Gary Kiehne, who ran in the 2014 Republican primary. The vast 1st District, which occupies much of northern and eastern Arizona, is a prime GOP conversion target. State Sen. Barbara McGuire is the lone Democratic candidate at this point in time. Mr. Bennett ran for Governor last year but fared poorly in the GOP primary.

CA-46: With rumors swirling that Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D) may be contemplating exiting the Senate race for the safe confines of this district if, later in the year, it doesn’t appear she can overtake Attorney General Kamala Harris (D), two Democrats have entered the race for what they believe will be an open House race. Former state Sen. Lou Correa (D) announced his congressional campaign upon Rep. Sanchez entering the Senate race. This week, Anaheim City Councilman Jordan Brandman (D) also became a congressional candidate. This district sending two Democrats into the general election is a distinct possibility.

FL-13: Depending upon how the new lines are drawn in Pinellas County’s 13th Congressional District, now that the Florida State Supreme Court has declared the seat’s configuration illegal, Charlie Crist, the Republican-turned Independent-turned Democrat former Governor confirms that he would have interest in running. It is unclear how the redistricting process will unfold, so much will occur before anyone makes final decisions about whether to become a congressional candidate in any district. Incumbent Rep. David Jolly (R-FL-13) says he will clarify his political plans next week. It appears he will jump into the Senate race.

FL-9: On the heels of Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Orlando) announcing for the Senate, two prominent Democrats declared for the open central Florida House seat. State Sen. Darren Soto, presumptively viewed as a candidate if the district were to open, and former state Rep. Ricardo Rangel both officially entered the race. A crowded Democratic field is expected for what is now a safe seat. This district, too, could see new boundaries as a result of the state Supreme Court’s action declaring eight CDs to be illegal, however.

IN-9: Attorney General Greg Zoeller (R) formed a federal political committee, suggesting that he will soon enter the open seat southeastern Indiana congressional race. State Sens. Brent Waltz and Erin Houchin are officially in the Republican primary. Rep. Todd Young (R) is running for Senate.

MI-9: Veteran Rep. Sander Levin (D-Royal Oak), who will be 85 at the time of the next election, announced that he will seek re-election to an 18th term next year. The Congressman was first elected in 1982. He is not expected to draw strong opposition.

MI-10: Paul Mitchell, the Republican businessman who self-funded what appeared to be a strong effort against then-state Sen. John Moolenaar in the 2014 open central Michigan 4th District seat but lost by a substantial margin, is moving across the state to run in retiring Rep. Candice Miller’s (R) southeastern Michigan CD. Mitchell will have the resources to broadcast his message, but whether he has the local contacts so necessary to succeed is open to question.

NH-1: Businessman and former University of New Hampshire Business School dean Dan Innis has launched a Republican primary challenge against embattled Rep. Frank Guinta. Mr. Innis fell to Guinta 41-49% in the 2014 GOP primary. A campaign finance problem surrounding what the Federal Election Commission termed an illegal campaign loan from his parents has plagued the Congressman for much of this term. He is vulnerable both in the 2016 primary and general elections.

NV-3: Soon after state Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson announced his candidacy for Rep. Joe Heck’s (R-Henderson) open seat, two other Republicans joined the race. Physician Annette Teijeiro (R) officially announced her candidacy this week. Surprisingly, frequent candidate Danny Tarkanian, son of former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian who has lost several campaigns, is also entering the 3rd District Republican race. Though an underdog to Roberson, Tarkanian is basing his campaign in opposition to Roberson helping leading the effort to enact the largest tax increase in Nevada history. Such a message could have strong legs in a GOP primary election. No Democrat has yet come forward to declare a candidacy in what is a marginal political district. Despite the Tarkanian attack, Mr. Roberson is the early favorite for both the Republican nomination and to win the general election.

NV-4: Former state House Speaker and 3rd District congressional nominee John Oceguera announced that he will challenge freshman Rep. Cresent Hardy (R-Mesquite) in the adjoining 4th District. Mr. Oceguera challenged Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) in 2012, losing 43-50%. Also in the Democratic race are state Sen. Ruben Kihuen, school board president Susie Lee, and former state Assemblywoman Lucy Flores. Rep. Hardy was one of the bigger upset winners of the 2014 election cycle, and is a top Democratic target in 2016.

Governor

Missouri: Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder (R), who won re-election in 2012 despite Democrat Jay Nixon winning at the top of the ticket and fighting a personal sex scandal, announced that he will enter the open Governor’s race next year. Despite his problems, Mr. Kinder has polled well in early trial heats. Also in the Republican race are former state Speaker of the House Catherine Hanaway, state Sen. Mike Parson, state Rep. Bart Korman, and businessman and former US Senate candidate John Brunner. Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster is well positioned to become his party’s consensus candidate. This race was rocked in late February when state Auditor Tom Schweich (R), who looked to be leading the Governor’s primary, committed suicide.