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Period Ending August 28, 2015

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

President

Kentucky: In a move designed to help favorite son Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican Party state convention delegates voted to change their presidential primary to a caucus. Doing so allows Paul to continue his campaign for President and simultaneously seek re-election. The agreement includes Sen. Paul being responsible for financing the $500,000 needed to pay for caucus logistics. If the money is not raised by certain deadlines, the process will revert to a May primary. The new Kentucky presidential caucus is scheduled for March 5th.

Polls: Gravis Marketing conducted a national poll (8/21-22; 3,567 registered voters; approximately 1,141 self-identified Republican voters; approximately 1,355 self-identified Democratic voters all through Interactive Voice Response) for the One America News Network and finds Donald Trump, for the first time for any candidate, reaching the 40% plateau among Republicans. Dr. Ben Carson moved into second place, with Jeb Bush hovering in third at his typical 10% level. Trump gained almost ten points when compared with the organization’s July poll; Carson almost seven points. The candidate falling furthest, a nine-point drop to just 3.5%, is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton, despite taking a national media pounding and faring poorly in match-ups against Republicans, maintains her stance as the clear party front-runner. She registers 54% compared to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 21%, and Vice President Joe Biden’s 12 percent.

Quinnipiac University also released a national poll (8/20-25; 1,563 registered voters). A verbatim question featuring 1,053 responses provided the most interesting data. Respondents were asked to describe Hillary Clinton in one word. Framing the serious image problem that dogs the former Secretary of State and First Lady, the top three responses were “liar”, “dishonest”, and “untrustworthy”. Over 57% of those offering an answer chose a word relating to being untruthful. This is obviously a situation that the Clinton campaign must address and reverse. But, with Clinton at 100% name identification, such will be a very difficult task.

Monmouth University surveyed the South Carolina Republican electorate (8/20-23; 453 SC likely Republican primary voters) and found Donald Trump leading here, too. He took 30% respondent preference, with Dr. Ben Carson placing second with 15%. All other candidates recorded only single-digit support. South Carolina, however, will be a key venue in determining whether Trump will run as an Independent in the general election. Having a “sore loser” law that prohibits even presidential candidates from running in a subsequent general election when the corresponding primary was lost, Trump would have to decide whether he wants to reserve his ability to run in the general election or compete in the important SC primary. The Palmetto State is one of four domains allowed to hold a nominating event prior to March 1st.

Senate

New Hampshire: A new Public Policy Polling survey (8/21-24; 841 NH registered voters) finds Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) leading Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) by a scant 44-43% margin. But, Ayotte may well be in better shape than what this poll projects. A clear liberal skew suggests that the Senator’s advantage is discernibly more than one percentage point. Gov. Hassan has yet to definitively state whether she will seek re-election or challenge Ms. Ayotte.

Ohio: Quinnipiac University released further results from their swing state polling, this data concerning the upcoming Ohio Senate race. According to the results of their August 7-18 survey (1,096 registered voters), Sen. Rob Portman (R) trails former Gov. Ted Strickland (D) 41-44%. Both candidates have strong favorability indexes. Strickland has a 44:32% positive to negative ratio, while Portman’s is a substantially better 42:19%. Considering the respondents’ views about the two candidates, a Strickland ballot test advantage is a surprising conclusion.

Pennsylvania: The Q-Poll also released PA Senate data (1,085 registered voters) from their survey conducted simultaneously with their Ohio study. Here, Sen. Pat Toomey (R) continues to perform well. On the ballot tests, he outdistances former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA-7) 48-33%, while topping new candidate Katie McGinty (D) by an almost identical 48-32% margin. Franklin & Marshall College, which typically finds less decided voters across the board, also finds Sen. Toomey with a lead beyond the margin of polling error in all circumstances. According to the F&M latest poll (8/17-24; 605 PA registered voters), Toomey leads Sestak 41-29%, and McGinty by a much closer 35-28% margin. The Senator, however, is in as strong a position as possible for a Pennsylvania Republican seeking statewide re-election.

House

Florida Redistricting: The state legislative special session adjourned without the members enacting a new congressional map. This means that Gov. Rick Scott (R) will either call a new special session or the state Supreme Court will draw the new map. On July 9th, the high court struck down eight of the 27 congressional districts for not fully complying with the 2010 voter-passed redistricting initiative. A court-drawn map will likely decrease the Republicans’ 17-10 delegation advantage.

IL-8: As was rumored several weeks ago, Villa Park Mayor Deb Bullwinkel has now officially entered the open Democratic congressional primary to succeed Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D). Bullwinkel joins former Deputy State Treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi and state Sen. Michael Noland in the primary contest. State Sen. Tom Cullerton, viewed by many as the original favorite in the race, entered but then withdrew. Expect additional candidates to come forward. The Democratic primary winner will become the prohibitive favorite for the general election. Rep. Duckworth is vacating to run for Senate.

IL-13: David Gill, who has run and lost this congressional district four times as a Democrat, announced that he will run in 2016 as an Independent. This will hurt the Democrats’ ability to unseat Rep. Rodney Davis (R) because Gill will likely divert a small number of liberal base voters away from the Democratic nominee. Because this CD is so tight, such a development makes it even more difficult for the Dems to recruit a strong challenger. Davis was re-elected with 59% of the vote in 2014, but the district will tighten in a presidential election year. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is actively engaged in candidate recruitment efforts here.

MI-1: Former local county Sheriff Jerry Cannon (D), who fell to three-term Rep. Dan Benishek (R) 52-45% last year, is officially back for another try. He announced his 2016 congressional candidacy this week. He will have Democratic primary opposition, however. Many in the party, locally and nationally, are lining up behind former state Democratic Party chairman Lon Johnson, instead. MI-1 will again be a top national target.

Governor

Louisiana: Triumph Campaigns again went into the field in the Bayou State (8/17-19; 2,185 LA registered voters by electronic sampling) and finds Sen. David Vitter (R) and state Rep. John Bel Edwards (D) likely headed to a gubernatorial run-off election. For the October jungle primary, Vitter leads the group of candidates with 31% followed closely by Edwards at 30%. In third place is Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle (R) posting 14%, just one point ahead of Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne (R). If no one receives an outright majority, the top two finishers, regardless of political party affiliation, will advance to the general election. Sen. Vitter is favored to win the race and succeed term-limited Gov. Bobby Jindal (R).

New Hampshire: While Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) still remains mum as to whether she will run for re-election or challenge Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R), she has drawn her first gubernatorial opponent. Manchester state Rep. Frank Edelblut (R) announced he will run for Governor next year after serving one term in the state House. Edelblut placed first in the multi-member district by just one vote over a sitting incumbent in the 2014 election. In 2012, the new gubernatorial candidate placed fourth in a field of four state House contenders.

North Dakota: Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) announced that he will not seek a second full term next year. The Governor assumed office in 2010 when then Gov. John Hoeven (R) was elected to the Senate. Mr. Dalrymple was Lt. Governor at the time. He then was easily elected to a full term in his own right in 2012. Many people will be interested in running for the open position. Among them are possibly Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) and former Rep. Rick Berg (R-ND-AL). Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, both Republicans, are apparently working on an agreement where only one of the two will run for Governor.