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Period Ending August 28, 2020

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

President

Florida Polling: In the last ten Florida 2020 polls conducted from the July 17 – August 22 period, former Vice President Joe Biden's aggregate average lead has dropped to 3.2 percentage points. In the previous ten surveys, conducted from June 8th through July 21st, the Biden lead in Florida averaged just under seven percentage points. Florida is a must-win state for the Trump campaign.

Swing State Polling: Two Democratic polling firms surveyed key presidential swing states over the same time period. While they both see former Vice President Joe Biden leading in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, their margins, at least in two of the states, were leagues apart.

In Michigan, Redfield and Wilton Strategies (8/16-18; 812 MI likely voters) gave Mr. Biden a 12-point, 50-38%, lead while Civiqs, polling for the Daily Kos Elections Page (8/13-17; 631 MI registered voters), projected only a three point advantage for the now-official Democratic nominee, 49-46%. In Wisconsin, Redfield & Wilton (8/16-19; 672 WI likely voters) posted Biden to a ten-point lead, 49-39%, while Civiqs (8/13-17; 754 WI registered voters) yielded him only a six-point, 51-45%, edge. Turning to Pennsylvania, the two pollsters found an identical seven-point spread, however. Redfield & Wilton (8/16-17; 1,006 PA likely voters) saw a 48-41% Biden lead, while Civiqs (8/13-17; 617 PA likely voters) forecast a 51-44% margin.

Further signs are occurring pointing to a closer presidential race. Democratic pollster Change Research just released their series of surveys in six crucial 2020 swing states, Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, during the August 21-23 period with sample sizes ranging from a low of 344 likely voters in Arizona to a high of 1,262 similarly chosen poll participants in Florida. While CR projects former Vice President Joe Biden to be leading in all six states, at least four of which (AZ, FL, NC, and either MI, PA, or WI) are must-wins for President Trump, the Democratic nominee's lead has dwindled to between one and six points in all of these places.

Senate

Colorado: Public Policy Polling recently surveyed the Colorado electorate (8/18-19; 731 CO voters) regarding the Senate race and gun control. They found former Governor and presidential candidate John Hickenlooper (D) to be holding a 51-42% advantage over Sen. Cory Gardner (R), but there is a Democratic skew affecting the sample.

Looking at voter registration statistics, the poll uses a 37% Democrat - 30% Republican -33% Unaffiliated segmentation within the sampling universe. The official Colorado voter registration statistics, however, find Democrats at 30.2%, Republicans recording 27.7%, and the Unaffiliated segment reaching the 40.4% level – quite a different picture than the poll paints. Accounting for the skew suggests that the Colorado Senate race is closer than the PPP ballot test displays.

Massachusetts: As the Massachusetts Senate race draws to a close on Tuesday, three individual polling firms are reporting similar numbers with each finding Sen. Ed Markey (D) expanding his lead over Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Newton).

Data for Progress (8/24-25; 732 MA likely or possible Democratic primary voters) posts Sen. Markey to a 46-38% edge over Rep. Kennedy. Among the 16% who describe themselves as undecided, the respondents who provided feedback as to how they are leaning report breaking for Mr. Kennedy by a 30-28% margin. Merging the leans with the previous sample provides Sen. Markey an adjusted 50-43% advantage.

Suffolk University (8/23-25; 500 MA likely Democratic primary voters) finds Sen. Markey, with leaners to both candidates included, holding a similar 51-41% lead. Finally, the University of Massachusetts at Lowell (8/13-21; 800 MA likely Democratic primary voters) sees almost the same standing in the Democratic US Senate race. Their totals project Sen. Markey to a 52-40% margin.

Michigan: As part of the Change Research swing state polling series (8/21-23; 809 MI likely voters), the pollsters tested the US Senate contest between first-term incumbent Gary Peters (D) and challenger John James (R). According to this Democratic polling firm's data, the race is getting closer and evolves into the sort of margins we saw before the COVID-19 shut down. The CR results find Sen. Peters currently leading Mr. James, 50-45%. Sen. Peters dominated the 32 publicly released polls between mid-March and the end of July. Since August began, however, three of four surveys find Mr. James closing to within five points or less. For the Democrats to gain the Senate majority, Michigan is a must-win state.

Nebraska: Nebraska US Senate Democratic nominee Chris Janicek has been under intense pressure from Democratic leaders to leave the race after stories surfaced that he had sent sexually suggestive texts to several campaign staff members. So far, Mr. Janicek has refused to resign from the ticket. He can still do so until September 1st, giving the state Democratic Party an opportunity of replacing him.

Former one-term US Representative Brad Ashford, who was denied re-nomination for his House seat in a 2018 comeback attempt, says he will launch a write-in campaign for the Senate seat if Mr. Janicek refuses to leave the race. Seeing that Mr. Janicek has agreed to a major September 4th debate with Sen. Ben Sasse (R), it appears that the general election will continue with the two originally nominated candidates. Therefore, the most likely conclusion to this race suggests that an Ashford write-in candidacy will go nowhere, and Republican incumbent Sasse will be easily re-elected.

New Hampshire: St. Anselm's University, as part of their statewide poll (8/16-17; 1,042 NH registered voters; 475 GOP primary voters; online), tested the US Senate Republican primary. The results find businessman Corky Messner edging retired Army General Don Bolduc, 31-29%, a much different result than the Tarrance Group found for the Messner campaign in July. That poll (7/13-14; 401 NH likely Republican primary voters) gave Mr. Messner a 39-27% lead. The Republican primary winner faces Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) in November. The New Hampshire nomination vote is set for September 8th.

North Carolina: Since the middle of June, Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham, a former state Senator, has been leading the North Carolina Senate race polling. This, in a state that has defeated more incumbent Senators than any other in the modern political era. The new Morning Consult Tar Heel State survey (8/14-23; 1,541 NC likely voters; online through a pre-determined sampling universe) finds Mr. Cunningham leading Sen. Tillis, 47-39%.

The Morning Consult survey is the 24th poll taken of the NC race since mid-June, the last time that Sen. Tillis led in a poll. Among these 24, Mr. Cunningham led in 21 surveys from between three and 16 points. Three of the surveys found the two candidates tied. By contrast, in the last seven North Carolina polls, President Trump has led in four with one tie. Mr. Trump did trail, however, 46-49%, in this same Morning Consult survey.

House

CA-8: California Rep. Paul Cook (R-Yucca Valley) is leaving his congressional position to assume a seat on the San Bernardino Board of Supervisors, a post he won outright in the district-wide non-partisan primary election held in March. The 8th CD, that stretches from San Bernardino all the way up the eastern California border beyond Yosemite National Park and almost to Lake Tahoe, is one of the few Republican domains in the state. In the general election, state Assemblyman Jay Obernolte (R-Hesperia) faces Democrat Chris Bubser, an engineer and biotech consultant from Mammoth Lakes.

Democratic pollster Global Strategy Group just released an earlier survey of the Obernolte-Busber race (8/1-5; 400 CA-8 likely general election voters) and found the GOP Assemblyman holding a ten-point, 48-38% advantage. In 2016, President Trump carried the district, 55-40%. In his four congressional elections, Rep. Cook averaged 61.8% of the general election vote.

GA-6: Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research confirms in their new GA-6 poll (8/11-16; 401 GA-6 likely voters) for the suburban district lying wholly within the Atlanta metropolitan region, that the re-match between freshman Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Marietta) and former Rep. Karen Handel (R) is again in the toss-up realm. The GQR results find Rep. McBath holding a tight 50-47% edge over Ms. Handel. In 2018, the actual election totals found Ms. McBath winning with only the slightest 50.5 - 49.5% margin. It appears more than likely that will we see another razor-thin result in the coming re-match.

MA-1: The 1st District Democratic congressional primary will culminate on Tuesday, and a just-released new poll from RABA Research for the Jewish Insider blog (8/23-24; 518 MA-1 likely voters, including 280 Democratic likely primary participants and 230 Independent voters who say they will vote in the Democratic primary) finds incumbent Rep. Richard Neal (D-Springfield), chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, expanding his lead over Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse to 49-40%. Previously, we saw a 46-41% split from an earlier Beacon Research survey (8/15-16; 391 MA-1 Democratic primary voters).

In a very rare move, a Republican Governor has endorsed a Democratic primary candidate. Gov. Charlie Baker (R) announced his support for Mr. Neal as the two candidates grind out the remaining days before the primary election. Mr. Baker has such strong approval ratings that his standing is positive even among Democrats.

OK-5: Oklahoma state Sen. Stephanie Bice (R-Oklahoma City) scored a 53-47% win in the 5th Congressional District Republican runoff last night, defeating former Lt. Governor nominee Terry Neese who placed first in the June 30th Republican primary. Ms. Bice now advances into the general election to face freshman Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Oklahoma City), the first Democrat to represent this seat since 1974. This will be one of the top congressional races in the country and a must-win seat for Republicans if they are to have any chance of re-claiming the majority they lost in 2018.

Before the runoff, but just released after Ms. Bice became the nominee, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (8/5-9; 500 OK-5 likely voters) gave Rep. Horn a 51-46% lead over Sen. Bice. Though the Republican state legislator trailed in this survey, it was taken before her victorious runoff campaign fully unfolded. The GQR data suggest the Horn-Bice November race is headed for the toss-up realm.

TX-21: We see another survey finding the Texas contest between freshman Rep. Chip Roy (R-Austin) and former state Senator and 2014 gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis (D) as being a flat tie. ALG Research (8/15-20; 500 TX-21 likely voters) finds Rep. Roy and Ms. Davis tied at 46%. Mr. Roy was first elected in 2018 with a 50-48% margin and it appears the 2020 race in this district that encompasses parts of the cities of Austin and San Antonio in addition to the Texas Hill Country, is again headed toward a photo finish.

TX-23: The Texas runoff elections were held July 14th, and we now finally have an official winner in the state's 23rd Congressional District. Coming through the Republican runoff election with just a 45-vote edge over his GOP opponent, Raul Reyes, retired Navy non-commissioned officer Tony Gonzales, nonetheless, declared victory. Mr. Reyes opted for a recount, and with approximately 80% of the ballots re-tabulated, the GOP candidate ended the procedure and conceded to Mr. Gonzales. The recount had made only a six-vote difference, allowing Mr. Reyes to slightly gain but not nearly enough to suggest he could close even this small deficit among the remaining votes.

Mr. Gonzales now challenges Democratic nominee Gina Ortiz Jones, the 2018 nominee who held retiring Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio) to just a 926-vote win. She was re-nominated all the way back on March 3rd, giving her almost a six-month time advantage in the general election. Though this is a west Texas swing district, Mr. Gonzales has a great deal to make up in terms of money and message delivery in a short amount of time. Still, the lone published poll for this race came from Public Opinion Strategies (8/6-9; 400 TX-23 likely voters via live interview) and the results gave Ms. Jones only a 41-40% edge despite her campaign advantages.