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Period Ending August 14, 2020

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

President

Joe Biden: Ending months of speculation, former Vice President Joe Biden announced that he has chosen California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate for the 2020 presidential election. Mr. Biden pledged to choose a woman as his Vice Presidential partner and fulfilled his commitment with Sen. Harris. As time progressed, the pressure became intense for him to choose a woman of color, which he also now has done. It remains to be seen, however, if she can deliver key votes in the swing states. During her presidential run, which ended even before the Iowa Caucus was held, Sen. Harris averaged only 5.4% in 94 publicly released polls from June until her exit day in the ten states most likely to be determinative in the general election.

Emerson College Polling: Emerson College Polling released a series of surveys conducted over the August 8-10 period in four presidential swing states, and in each case the results seem to cut against the average trend. In Pennsylvania (843 likely voters) and Arizona (861 likely voters), Emerson projects former Vice President Joe Biden to be running well ahead of the margin he has been posting lately. Both states showed a seven-point spread with no undecided voters. The Emerson pollsters often push respondents for a choice between major party candidates, which eliminates the undecided category.

In North Carolina (873 likely voters) and Minnesota (733 likely voters), President Trump is performing better than the average, leading in the Tar Heel State by one percentage point, and trailing in Minnesota by just two points. The latter number is significantly below the 8.6% Biden average spread determined from the last five Minnesota published polls prior to Emerson's release.

Senate

Kansas: Survey USA immediately went into the field after the Kansas August 4th primary (8/5-9; 1,202 KS likely voters) and sees new Republican nominee Roger Marshall, the 1st District US Representative, running slightly ahead of state Sen. Barbara Bollier (D-Mission Hills), 46-44%. This, right after an intense primary campaign that saw Mr. Marshall defeating former gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach and Kansas City businessman Bob Hamilton, 40-26-19 percent.

Massachusetts: The University of Massachusetts at Amherst released a new statewide Democratic primary poll and though the error factor is high, the ballot test produces a major surprise. According to this data (7/31-8/7; 500 MA registered voters; 199 likely Democratic primary voters; 163 likely Independent voters intending to enter the Democratic primary), Sen. Ed Markey (D), in a race that had, heretofore, been close leads Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Newton) by a large 50-32% margin, and 51-36% when those who said they were leaning to one candidate or the other were included. In UMass' last poll conducted back in February, the candidates were separated by three percentage points.

Minnesota: The aforementioned Emerson College survey also asked a question about the Minnesota Senate race that is now officially between Sen. Tina Smith (D) and former US Rep. Jason Lewis (R). While other polls have yielded the Senator a lead of approximately ten percentage points, this survey finds her margin dropping to only three points, 48-45%. Both Sen. Smith and Mr. Lewis were easy winners in their respective primary campaigns this week.

Mississippi: In a race that has drawn scant attention in 2020, a new Garin Hart Yang Research poll (7/30-8/9; 600 MS likely voters) finds Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith's (R) lead over former US Agriculture Secretary and ex-Mississippi Congressman Mike Espy (D) dwindling when compared to earlier polls. The GHY survey finds Sen. Hyde-Smith topping Mr. Espy, 47-42%. An Impact Management Group poll in early May posted the Senator to a 28-point advantage.

South Carolina: Quinnipiac University is the latest to survey the South Carolina Senate race (7/20-8/3; 914 SC registered voters) and sees Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) and former South Carolina Democratic state chairman Jaime Harrison (D) landing in a flat tie, 44-44%. Including the latest Q-Poll, six surveys from a half-dozen different pollsters have been publicly released of this race since late May, and all but one shows the contest languishing within four percentage points. The only outlier is the Gravis Marketing poll (7/17; 604 SC likely voters) that gave Sen. Graham a seven-percentage point advantage.

House

FL-15: St. Pete Polls (8/12; 594 FL-15 registered Republican voters; via automated telephone system) tested the upcoming Florida primary election contest between freshman Republican US Rep. Ross Spano (R-Dover/Lakeland) and Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin. Rep. Spano has been under a cloud since being investigated for administering inappropriate political loans during his 2018 general election campaign. The St. Pete results find Rep. Spano leading Mr. Franklin by a scant 42-41% margin. The poll suggests that this could be an interesting primary on Tuesday night.

Georgia: Controversial businesswoman Margorie Taylor Greene easily won her Republican runoff election during the week with a 57-43% victory margin over Rome area surgeon John Cowan. Ms. Greene is associated with the QAnon movement whose affiliates believe a "deep state bureaucratic underground" is attempting to undermine President Trump. Since the 14th District is strongly conservative, Ms. Greene is a heavy favorite to win in November and replace retiring Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ranger/Rome).

In the northeast Georgia 9th District, retired Navy officer and firearm company owner Andrew Clyde, who self-funded most of his campaign, defeated state Rep. Matt Gurtler (R-Tiger), 56-44%, to claim the Republican nomination. Mr. Clyde advances into a general election where he becomes the heavy favorite to succeed Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) who is running for the Senate.

HI-2: In Saturday's Hawaii primary election, reports from the state find that state Sen. Kai Kahele (D-Hilo) was an easy winner in the open Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Kailua). Mr. Kahele captured a whopping 76% of the vote. He now becomes the prohibitive favorite to win the seat in November, as he should easily defeat new Republican nominee Joe Akana, a business development consultant and US Air Force veteran.

Iowa: Monmouth University went into the field to survey the Hawkeye State vote and divided the large sampling universe into segments for purposes of testing each of the state's four congressional districts. The survey (7/25-8/3; 1,665 IA registered voters; 400 via live interview and 1,265 online; congressional district sample sizes were not released) finds two Democrats and a pair of Republicans leading in the four districts.

In the 1st, and all of the succeeding reported numbers are under the high voter turnout model, freshman Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Dubuque) leads Cedar Rapids state Rep. Ashley Hinson (R), 52-41%. In the 2nd, and confirming an earlier Harper Polling survey that found the race tight, state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Ottumwa) holds a slight edge over former state Senator and 2018 Lt. Governor nominee Rita Hart (D), 48-44%. Third District freshman Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Des Moines) records a 50-42% advantage over former US Rep. David Young (R). In the western 4th CD, state Sen. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull), who defeated Rep. Steve King (R-Kiron) in the June GOP primary, is establishing a large lead over 2018 Democratic nominee J.D. Scholten, 55-34%.

NJ-2: Two Democratic polls post mental health advocate Amy Kennedy (D), the wife of former Rhode Island US Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D), to small leads over freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis Township/Atlantic City) who was elected as a Democrat in 2018 but switched to the Republican Party in the middle of his first term.

According to the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Group (8/4-6; 400 NJ-2 likely voters), Ms. Kennedy tops Rep. Van Drew, 51-46%. The Global Strategy Group (8/1-5; 400 NJ-2 likely voters), sees a much more modest edge, however, 46-45%. This is yet another competitive New Jersey campaign in a state that is one of the most important toward determining the majority in the next Congress.

Minnesota: Polarizing US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minneapolis) defeated local Democratic attorney Antone Melton-Meaux, 57-39%, in their expensive Democratic primary contest that drew over 160,000 voters. Both candidates raised well over $4 million for their respective campaign efforts.

In the expansive northwestern Minnesota district, the strongest Trump seat in the nation that elects a Democratic Representative, former Lt. Governor and state Senate President Michelle Fischbach easily won the Republican primary against two significant opponents. She defeated David Hughes, the 2016 and '18 nominee who held Rep. Peterson to 52% victories both times, and Dr. Noel Collis, who spent heavily on television advertising. The general election between Ms. Fischbach and House Agriculture Committee chairman Collin Peterson (D-Detroit Lakes) could quickly evolve into a toss-up campaign.

MI-6: A week after the Michigan primary that saw state Rep. Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo) win a surprisingly tight Democratic primary victory and veteran Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) score only 63% in his GOP primary race, a new poll finds the challenger opening with a small advantage. RMG Research, polling during the primary voting period (7/30-8/6; 500 MI-6 registered voters), finds Mr. Hoadley taking a four-point, 40-36%, lead over Mr. Upton.

MN-7: Both veteran Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Detroit Lakes) and former Lt. Governor and ex-state Senate President Michelle Fischbach (R) easily won their respective congressional primaries on Tuesday night, but a pre-primary poll just released projects the challenger in unusually strong shape. According to a Tarrance Group poll (8/2-5; 413 MN-7 likely voters), Ms. Fischbach would lead Rep. Peterson by a full ten-point margin, 52-42%. This, in President Trump's strongest congressional district (Trump '16: 62-31%) that sends a Democrat to the House of Representatives. Rep. Peterson, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, is running for a 16th term.

TX-4: Fourth Congressional District precinct chair delegates gathered in convention to choose a replacement nominee for former US Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Rockwall) who resigned in May to become the Director of US Intelligence. The winner: state Sen. Pat Fallon (R-Wichita Falls). He came to the party conclave with US Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) who delivered an endorsement speech on Sen Fallon's behalf.

The 4th District seat will remain vacant for the rest of the year since Gov. Greg Abbott (R) chose not to call a special election. Therefore, Sen. Fallon becomes the regular election nominee. The 4th District is heavily Republican (Trump '16: 75-22%), so the new nominee becomes a prohibitive general election favorite and, barring a GOP political catastrophe, will take the seat in January with the incoming freshman class.

TX-22: Recalling a late July poll from Meeting Street Insights (7/19-22; 400 TX-22 registered voters) that found Ft. Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls (R) leading es-Foreign Service officer Sri Preston Kulkarni (D) 44-32%, RMG Research (7/27; 8/2; 500 TX-22 registered voters) now finds the two candidates tied at 39% apiece. The district, formerly a safe Republican seat, has been moving more toward the political center, so a tie at this point in the campaign does seem a reasonable conclusion.

WA-10: Though ballot counting continues from the August 4th all-mail primary, it appears that the general election is set. Two Democrats from the state's jungle primary format for the open congressional seat, former Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland and state Rep. Beth Doglio (D-Olympia), will advance into the general election from the field of 19 candidates. Ms. Doglio's small lead over former state Rep. Kristine Reeves (D) is holding and, considering the number of ballots remaining to count, it is clear that the latter woman cannot erase the former's slight advantage. Therefore, we will see a competitive double Democrat general election.

Wisconsin: Most of the US House incumbents and candidates were running unopposed in this week's primary, but one future Congressman was identified. State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) attracted more than 77% of his district's primary votes and becomes the prohibitive favorite to win in November. He will replace retiring Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Menomonee Falls) who will leave the House after 42 years of service, second in seniority to only Alaska at-large Rep. Don Young (R-Ft. Yukon) who was elected five years earlier.

Governor

Vermont: Vermont Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman scored a 51-40% Democratic primary win over former state Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe to secure the gubernatorial nomination. He will also carry the Vermont Progressive Party ballot line in November. Mr. Zuckerman will now challenge two-term Gov. Phil Scott (R) in a state that heavily favors his Democratic Party.