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Period Ending August 19, 2016

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

President

The week’s biggest presidential campaign news featured a staff change within the Donald Trump campaign hierarchy. Whether the addition of Breitbart’s Steve Bannon as campaign chairman and Kellyanne Conway taking over as manager will right the course remains to be seen. Mr. Trump did have a much better week. He committed no new unforced errors and delivered policy addresses in Detroit, Miami, and Milwaukee that began to lay the underpinnings of a policy agenda. Hillary Clinton did exactly what a smart candidate does when the opponent is in turmoil: keep quiet and take no controversial actions.

Another five new national surveys were conducted and Trump is slowly closing the polling gap. As has been the case for several weeks, he does better when minor party candidates Gary Johnson (Libertarian) and/or Jill Stein (Green) are added to the polling questionnaire.

The five polls, from NBC/Survey Monkey (8/8-14; 15,179 registered voters; Clinton +6), Morning Consult (8/11-14; 2,001 registered voters; rolling sample; Clinton +6), Pew Charitable Trusts (8/9-16; 1,567 registered voters; Clinton +4), YouGov/Economist (8/11-16; 1,076 registered voters; Clinton +6), and Rasmussen Reports (8/15-16; 1,000 likely voters; Clinton +2) mean an average Clinton advantage of 4.8%. The former Secretary of State’s support scope in these polls is narrow, from 39 to 43%. Trump spans the 33-39% range, and Johnson records in the 4-6% segment.

Quinnipiac University conducted additional swing state polls in important battleground states during the week. In Colorado (9 Electoral Votes), the Q-Poll finds Ms. Clinton developing a strong advantage over Mr. Trump with Gary Johnson scoring well into double digits. Here, the four-way split is 41-33-16-7%, possibly the best state for the minor party candidates to date. Clinton also does well in Virginia (13 EVs) where the four-way separation is 45-34-11-5%, and Michigan (Mitchell/Fox 2; 8/9-10; 1,314 MI likely voters through Interactive Voice Response system) where the division is 44-33-9-5%.

Trump fares better in Monmouth University’s Indiana (11 EVs) survey, where he leads Ms. Clinton and Mr. Johnson, 47-36-10%. Dr. Stein’s name was not included in the Monmouth poll. According to Magellan Strategies, Trump is dominating the field in Mississippi (8/11; 1,084 MS likely voters), leading 52-39-3% over Clinton and Johnson. The Iowa (6 EVs) Q-Poll portends a dead heat between the two major party candidates and the also-rans are faring well. According to this data, Ms. Clinton would lead Mr. Trump by two percentage points, 41-39%, while Mr. Johnson scores a respectable 12% and Dr. Stein follows at 3% support. Nevada is also in toss-up territory. According to Suffolk University (8/15-17; 500 NV likely voters), Clinton leads Trump and Johnson, 44-42-5%.

Senate

Alaska: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) won re-nomination with 72% of the vote against three minor Republicans. In 2010, she suffered a Tea Party primary upset but would win re-election as a write-in Independent candidate later that year. In 2016, her ride to a third full term is much easier. The Senator will now face former state Rep. Ray Metcalfe (D) in the general election where she is rated as a prohibitive favorite.

Colorado: Quinnipiac University asked the US Senate ballot test question as part of their Colorado survey (8/9-16; 830 CO likely voters). Not surprisingly, they find Sen. Michael Bennet (D) holding a strong 54-38% lead over El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn (R). Originally, the Colorado race was expected to be competitive but the Republicans’ faring poorly in the candidate recruitment process has led to giving Sen. Bennet a commanding lead to win a second full term.

Indiana: Monmouth University surveyed the Indiana electorate, giving us our second look at the Senate contest between former Sen. Evan Bayh (D) and Rep. Todd Young (R-IN-9). After seeing a Garin Hart Yang Research Group survey right after Bayh replaced ex-Rep. Baron Hill (D-IN-9) as the Democratic nominee that found the Democrat jumping out to a strong 54-33% advantage, this new data gives Rep. Young some hope. According to the latest poll, Bayh’s lead is now 48-41%. The Indiana race is now becoming pivotal in terms of determining which party will control the Senate in the new Congress.

Iowa: The Iowa Senate race continues to remain stagnant as it has since shortly after the June 7th primary. The lack of movement is good news for Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) who continues to lead former Lt. Gov. Patty Judge (D) at, or near, double-digit percentage points. According to the Iowa Quinnipiac poll (8/9-16; 846 IA likely voters), the Grassley advantage is 51-42%. Suffolk University (8/8-10; 500 IA likely voters) records an almost identical 52-42% spread, as does NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist College (8/3-7; 899 IA registered voters). Back in July, Monmouth University (7/8-11; 401 IA likely voters) also found the 52-42% Grassley split.

Nevada: The Silver State Senate race continues to remain in the toss-up category. A brand new Suffolk University survey (8/15-17; 500 NV likely voters) finds Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV-3) and former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D), tied at 37% apiece. This race has been close for months, but most surveys have shown Rep. Heck holding small leads.

Texas: Public Policy Polling did some early testing regarding Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R) 2018 re-election in light of several stories suggesting that he could be facing a Republican primary challenge. In hypothetical trial heats, Cruz jumps out to a large lead over House Homeland Security Committee chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX-10), 51-19%, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), 49-27%. There is one person, however, who does poll well against Sen. Cruz. Former Gov. Rick Perry (R) would lead Cruz, 46-37% were he to enter the Senate race. There is little suggestion that any of the three would challenge Cruz in the next cycle, however.

House

AK-AL: Veteran Rep. Don Young (R-Ft. Yukon) won re-nomination for a 24th term with a 71% victory in the GOP primary. He now faces former Alaska Public Media CEO Steve Lindbeck (D) who scored 56% in his Democratic primary. Lindbeck had raised $500,000+ for the primary and is in position to put forth a competitive general election effort. Mr. Young remains a heavy favorite for a November re-election, nevertheless.

NY-3: A federal judge has ordered a new Republican primary in the open 3rd District after candidate Philip Pidot successfully argued that he was erroneously denied ballot access for the June 28 New York federal primary. Pidot filed the required number of signatures, but his GOP opponent, state Sen. Jack Martins, filed a challenge to his petitions. The signature verification process went past the primary ballot finalization deadline; therefore, a state judge ruled that Pidot could not be added to the ballot even though he qualified. The federal judicial authority reversed that decision and has scheduled a special primary for October 6. There is little doubt that Martins will again be nominated, but will this help de-rail his general election campaign against former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi (D)? The Martins-Suozzi race is rated as leaning Democrat but the district could elect a Republican. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) is retiring.

WY-AL: Liz Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President, US Defense Secretary, and five-term Wyoming Congressman Dick Cheney (R), won the nine-way at-large Republican primary with 40% of the vote early this week. Placing a distant second with 22% was state Sen. Leland Christensen. Winning the Republican congressional primary is tantamount to victory in November, meaning that Ms. Cheney will succeed retiring Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Cheyenne).

Governor

Indiana: The aforementioned Monmouth University poll (see Indiana Senate above) provides good news for new GOP nominee Eric Holcomb. After languishing in a deficit position upon being chosen as Gov. Mike Pence’s replacement on the Republican ticket after the latter ascended to the Vice Presidential nomination, Holcomb has fought back to even the early polls that once favored Democratic nominee John Gregg. According to Monmouth, Holcomb now has a slight 42-41% edge. Mr. Holcomb is the state’s appointed Lt. Governor. Mr. Gregg is the former state House Speaker who held Pence to only a three-point victory in the 2012 Governor’s race.