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Period Ending August 21, 2015

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

President

Polls: As usual, several new presidential polls were released during the week, each concentrating on a different aspect of the campaign. The week began with the Fox News survey (8/11-13; 1,008 registered voters; 401 likely Democratic primary voters; 381 likely Republican primary voters). This poll found two non-politicians leading the Republican side: Donald Trump with 25% support and Dr. Ben Carson in second place with 12%. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) vaunted to third place, followed by Jeb Bush who dropped to 9% in voter preference.

The CNN/ORC survey (8/13-16; 897 registered voters; 466 self-identified Republicans) illuminated two findings. First, Hillary Clinton continues to lead all Republicans in the national ballot test. According to this survey, the former Secretary of State posts in the low 50s against every major GOP candidate. The Republicans fall in the mid to low 40s. Secondly, the pollsters asked Republicans who they believe would best handle certain issue areas. Trump had major advantages in handling the economy, immigration, and ISIS. On the economy, for example, 45% of the respondents believed that Trump would be most effective. The next closest candidate on this particular answer sheet was Jeb Bush with just 8 percent. The remainder of the large field all placed behind Bush.

Quinnipiac University unveiled three 1,000+ respondent polls (Aug 7-18) in the swing states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Here, they find for the first time, that Donald Trump now leads in the state of Florida, the first time someone other than Jeb Bush or Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) took first place in the latter candidates’ home state. Trump notched 21%, followed by Bush dropping to 17%, and Rubio posting 11%, tied with Dr. Ben Carson. In general election match-ups, it is Rubio who polls as the strongest Republican in the three states, topping Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, and Sen. Bernie Sanders in each scenario but one. Rubio trails VP Biden by a single point in Ohio. Though Rubio is dropping back in the Republican primary pack, he continues to exhibit strength before the general electorate.

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

Maryland: Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD-4) released the results of her Global Strategy Group survey (8/3-9; 600 likely MD Democratic primary voters) that projects the Congresswoman leading fellow Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8), 42-37%, in their open Senate battle. Baltimore Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD-7), however, may be making a discernible move to enter the race, which would considerably change the dynamics. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) is retiring. The eventual Democratic nominee will win the general election.

North Carolina: Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling conducted its monthly poll of the North Carolina electorate (8/12-16; 957 NC registered voters) and finds Sen. Richard Burr (R) again leading all contenders, none of which is particularly well known. The most prominent potential foe is former Congressman and star college football quarterback Heath Shuler (D), who is publicly considering entering the race. Other local officials were tested. Burr posts a 42-35% lead over Shuler, and the other splits are not much different. Though Sen. Burr’s support numbers are a bit low, the Democrats are having a difficult time recruiting a strong challenger. North Carolina will be highly competitive at the presidential level, so a stronger Democrat could bring this seat into the contested realm.

Wisconsin: Luntz Global ran a poll for Restoration PAC, a conservative 527 organization, (8/9-10; 600 WI registered voters) that finds former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) leading incumbent Ron Johnson (R) 50-42%. Marquette University Law School, which has frequently polled the Wisconsin electorate, reported the results from their latest survey (8/13-16; 802 WI registered voters), which shows Sen. Johnson in stronger position albeit trailing former Sen. Feingold. The Marquette numbers give the Democratic challenger a 47-42% edge.

House

Virginia Redistricting: Due to legislative maneuvering regarding a judicial appointment, the state legislature adjourned their special session without redrawing the southeastern Virginia congressional lines. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), responding to the court direction, called the session specifically for redistricting purposes. The map will now revert to the three-judge panel that declared District 3 (Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Newport News)) unconstitutional because of racial gerrymandering. The Virginia Republican congressional delegation filed a lawsuit that the Supreme Court will examine in late September. If they hear the case, the redistricting could be postponed for the foreseeable future.

FL-10: Last week former Orlando Police Chief and 2012 congressional nominee Val Demings confirmed she was considering again running for Congress if the new 10th District is made more Democratic in the court-ordered mid-decade redistricting. This week she formally announced her campaign even though the redistricting plan is not yet completed. The released blueprint shows a highly Democratic 10th District that even incumbent Rep. Dan Webster (R-Orlando) says would be “impossible” for him to win. Three years ago, Webster defeated Demings 52-48%. State Sen. Geraldine Thompson (D) also says she will run in what will be a newly drawn 10th CD.

IA-3: Iraq War veteran Jim Mowrer (D) who spent more than $2.1 million in a campaign against neighboring Rep. Steve King (R-IA-4) last year, announced that he will move to the 3rd District to challenge freshman Rep. David Young (R). Despite his strong fundraising effort, Mowrer only managed to garner 37% of the vote against King. Though the Des Moines-anchored 3rd CD is a better Democratic district, Mowrer has little in the way of a political base.

NH-1: Labor union official and local Democratic Party county chairman Kim Weaver announced that he will challenge Rep. Steve King (R) next year. With King easily disposing of two more accomplished Democratic opponents in the last two consecutive elections, the Congressman will begin this campaign as the decided favorite.

PA-2: Philadelphia Democratic Ward leader Dan Muroff announced that he will challenge indicted Rep. Chaka Fattah in the Democratic primary. On July 29, Fattah was indicted on 29 federal charges but says he will still seek re-election to a twelfth term in the House. Mr. Fattah was first elected to the state legislature in 1982.

Governor

Indiana: Democrats have now coalesced around 2012 gubernatorial nominee John Gregg as their consensus candidate to challenge Gov. Mike Pence (R). Last week, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz (D) dropped out of the race. This week, state Sen. Karen Tallian (D) follows suit, thus leaving Gregg as the lone contender. Pence defeated Gregg 49-46% three years ago.

Montana: In a political move that had been expected for months, billionaire high tech executive Greg Gianforte (R) announced his gubernatorial candidacy. If successful in obtaining the Republican nomination, he will face first-term Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock. Despite what should be a favorable Republican turnout for the presidential race, Gov. Bullock must be considered the favorite for re-election.

North Carolina: The Public Policy Polling Tar Heel State survey (see NC Senate above) again produces numbers showing Gov. Pat McCrory (R) in a state of vulnerability. Their ballot test report actually places Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) slightly ahead of the Governor, leading him 42-39%.

Utah: Though admitting Utah is a “well managed state”, Overstock CEO Jonathan Johnson announced a Republican primary challenge to Gov. Gary Herbert. With the change in Utah election law, it is now possible to obtain general election output through the ballot petition process, meaning that Herbert cannot clinch the nomination at the state Republican Party convention as in years past. Gov. Herbert is in strong position for re-nomination and re-election.

Vermont: State House Speaker Shap Smith (D) became the first official candidate vying to succeed retiring Gov. Peter Shumlin (D). Several others from both parties are expected to enter the race. Though Vermont is decidedly liberal, Republicans can be competitive in statewide political contests. The eventual Democratic nominee will begin as the obvious favorite, but the Republican candidate field will be credible.