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Period Ending August 14, 2015

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

President

Sen. Rand Paul (R): It is no secret of Sen. Paul’s desire to simultaneously run for President and re-election to his Senate seat next year. Earlier this year, the Kentucky Republican Executive Committee members voted to change Kentucky’s party nomination system from a primary to a caucus. The caucus format would allow Paul to run for both offices since the candidates do not technically appear on a ballot during caucus meetings. Kentucky election law forbids candidates from appearing on the ballot for more than one office in the same election. Later this month the state Republican convention will occur, and the entire assembly must adopt the Executive Committee recommendation if the change is to take effect. Many now believe that the full committee will oppose the change, thus forcing Sen. Paul to choose which office to seek. He could continue his presidential campaign in the other 55 states and territories, but he would likely enter the Senate race as opposed to risking his seat for what now appears to be a long shot run for the national post.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D): For the first time, a political survey projects Sen. Sanders to be leading Hillary Clinton. The Franklin Pierce University/Boston Herald poll (8/7-10; 442 NH likely Democratic primary voters) finds the Vermont Senator holding a seven-point advantage (44-37%) over the former Secretary of State and First Lady. The totals represent an unfathomable net 46-point swing in Sanders’ favor (Sanders: +36; Clinton: -10), as compared to the university’s March 2015 poll.

Polls: All of the post-debate survey data suggests that Donald Trump continues to lead the Republican field in all places. His debate performance was rated as both high and low by substantial numbers of respondents. The undercard debate winner was clearly Carly Fiorina, and she is moving up in the latest polls. Based upon the considerable positive media attention over her performance, Ms. Fiorina will be included on the big stage debates for the foreseeable future.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) appears to be taking the most negative flak for his performance. Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s media coverage has been strong, but the attention has not yet affected his poll standing. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) also received universally positive reviews. None of the candidates seemed to damage themselves, though former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush generally drew negative reviews. Neutral scores went to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Both performed well, but did not particularly stand out.

Senate

Arkansas: US Attorney Connor Eldridge (D), who at 38 years of age is the nation’s youngest person to hold such a position, resigned this week. It is becoming clear that he is leaving his post to soon announce his candidacy to oppose first-term Sen. John Boozman (R). The Senator appears to be in strong shape for re-election, but Eldridge will certainly be a credible Democratic candidate.

Missouri: Public Policy Polling released their new Missouri data this week (8/7-9; 859 MO registered voters), and finds that all tested candidates statewide candidates except two, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder (R) and Attorney General Chris Koster (D), have unfavorable approval indexes. For the Senate candidates, incumbent Roy Blunt (R) posts a 30:47% positive to negative score, while his consensus general election opponent, Secretary of State Jason Kander (D), posts a 14:21% upside down ratio. On the ballot test, Blunt has an early 40-35% edge.

Iowa: A new Public Policy Polling survey (8/7-9; 1,500 IA registered voters) finds six-term Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) again in very strong re-election position. He easily defeats all potential opponents, breaking the majority 50% figure in all configurations. The Senator’s job approval (52:32% favorable) is off the charts in comparison to the other key elected officials. The same sample views President Obama’s performance as 43:51% negative and Gov. Terry Branstad (R) at only a slightly better 42:47%. The state’s junior Senator, Joni Ernst, scores an even 43:43%.

House

Florida Redistricting: The official special legislative redistricting session is now underway. The leadership hopes to conclude work on a new congressional map by August 24th. Rep. David Jolly’s (R-FL-13) district looks to be headed to the Democrats with the inclusion of St. Petersburg on the preliminary map. He has already announced his intention to run for the Senate. Rep. Gwen Graham’s (D-FL-2) north Florida district will almost assuredly go Republican if the preliminary draw stands. It would not be surprising to see her, too, join the Senate race. It remains to be seen if GOP Rep. Dan Webster’s 10th District (Orlando-Orange County) is revised. It is unlikely he will have a place to run if the released map is adopted. Expect action to occur in the session to change the central Florida region.

FL-10: Looking at what may be a bad redistricting draw for incumbent Rep. Dan Webster (R), two prominent Orlando area Democrats have acknowledged interest in running should the proposed map take effect. Former Orlando Police Chief and 2012 congressional nominee Val Demings and state Sen. Geraldine Thompson both indicate they would enter the Democratic congressional primary under the proposed boundaries.

MI-6: Though University professor Paul Clements (D) was drubbed last November (56-40%), he is returning for another try against House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton (R). Despite the increased presidential election year turnout in what could be a marginal district, Rep. Upton remains a heavy favorite to win a 16th term next year.

MI-8: Actress Melissa Gilbert (D), who came to fame for her child role in the 1970-80s television program, “Little House on the Prairie”, announced that she will run for the US House next year. Gilbert will challenge freshman Rep. Mike Bishop (R), assuming she wins the Democratic nomination. Previously, Gilbert served as the president of the Screen Actors Guild union, hence her furthering interest in politics. The district could become competitive, but Bishop appears to be in strong shape for re-election.

NH-1: Former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D) filed candidate committee organization documents with the Federal Election Commission, but that doesn’t necessarily mean, according to her spokesman, that she will enter the 2016 congressional contest. Shea-Porter was first elected in 2006, re-elected two years later, defeated in 2010, returned with a victory in 2012, and was again defeated last November. Rep. Frank Guinta (R) has since come under attack from the FEC and his own party about a loan/contribution involving a transfer of substantial funds from his parents. He is already drawing a primary challenge from former University of New Hampshire Business College dean Dan Innis, who also ran in 2014. NH-1, the most volatile district in the nation during the past 10 years, will again be a top target and could well flip once more.

NY-13: State Sen. Bill Perkins has become the fourth strong Democrat to announce his congressional candidacy. He, former state Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, state Assemblyman Keith Wright, and former US Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook hope to succeed retiring Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-Harlem). State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who challenged Rangel in the last two elections, has not yet committed to the race. The eventual Democratic nominee will easily hold the seat in the general election.

Governor

Indiana: State School Superintendent Glenda Ritz (D) this week ended her fledging campaign for Governor. Originally highly touted as the Democrats’ best candidate to unseat Gov. Mike Pence (R), Ritz never got her political operation untracked particularly on the fundraising circuit. On the other hand, 2012 nominee John Gregg (D), who lost to Pence by only 3 percentage points, is off to a fast start and has even outraised the incumbent during the first two quarters of 2015. Ritz says she will seek re-election to her current position.

Missouri: Despite being embroiled in a past sex scandal that forced him out of the 2012 Governor’s campaign, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder (R) is in the top position both for the Republican primary and hypothetical general election according to the aforementioned Public Policy Polling survey (see Missouri Senate above). In the Republican primary (440 MO likely GOP voters) Kinder leads his closest competitor, former state House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, by a better than 2:1 ratio, 27-11%. In the general election, Kinder has a 40-37% edge over Attorney General Chris Koster, the Republican-turned-Democrat. Gov. Jay Nixon (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.