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Period Ending August 29, 2014

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

Senate

Alaska: Rasmussen Reports released the first general election survey of the Sen. Mark Begich (D)/Dan Sullivan (R) campaign. The survey (8/20-21; 750 AK likely voters) finds the challenger, Mr. Sullivan, holding a 47-45% edge. This is one of the most important campaigns in the country and will go a long way to deciding which party assumes the majority in the new Congress.

Arkansas: This race has been seesawing back and forth in the polls for months, and the latest two surveys released into the public domain are no exception. Rasmussen Reports (8/25-26; 750 AR likely voters) finds Sen. Mark Pryor (D) leading Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR-4) by just one point, 44-43%. But, the Opinion Research poll, conducted for the Arkansas Democratic Party, finds the Senator to be in stronger position. According to their data (8/6-14; 414 AR registered voters), Pryor is ahead 46-41%. The latter poll is a bit more suspect. First, it is a party survey, so we don’t know exactly how, or in what order, the questions were asked. Second, the sampling period of nine days is much too long. Yet, a five-point spread is not particularly strong, so even this poll still suggests a toss-up race.

Georgia: Though several pollsters have projected Republican David Perdue to be holding an edge over Democrat Michelle Nunn, Landmark/Rosetta Stone (7/25; 750 GA registered voters) sees it differently. They project Ms. Nunn to a 47-40% advantage. Since the poll did cause some controversy among Georgia pols, Landmark released a statement explaining their methodology. Most specifically, they publicly said, “we believe that the model for our poll more accurately matches the demographics of a Georgia general election. We believe that other firms are aware of the issue and that they will ultimately modify their weighting to account for it.” Further polls and the actual vote totals will either prove or disprove the Landmark methodological premise.

Iowa: Suffolk University surveyed the Iowa electorate (released 8/27; 500 IA registered voters) and confirms the earlier Public Policy Polling study that found Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA-1) and state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) to be deadlocked a flat tie. Suffolk also forecasts a dead heat, finding both candidates pulling 40% apiece. In terms of personal favorability on the Suffolk poll, Braley did slightly better, 40:35% positive to negative, whereas Ernst scored a tie there, too. Of those who expressed an opinion of her, 41% have a positive impression while another 41% expressed negative feelings toward her.

Kansas: Survey USA (8/20-23; 560 KS likely voters) sees a return to normalcy in the Kansas Senate race. Last week we reported upon a Public Policy Polling study that showed Independent candidate Greg Orman pulling to within a virtual tie for second place along side Democrat Chad Taylor. This week, S-USA finds Sen. Pat Roberts (R) again holding a tepid lead, 37-32-20%, but this time Taylor, and not Orman, is Roberts’ clear opponent. This race, despite the state’s strong Republican voting history, continues to be worth watching.

Minnesota: Survey USA also polled the Minnesota electorate (8/19-21; 600 MN likely voters) and found Sen. Al Franken (D) in similar position to other previously conducted studies. S-USA projects Franken to a 51-42% advantage over investor Mike McFadden (R), in a race that has not moved a great deal in the preceding weeks.

Oklahoma Run-off: As expected, state Sen. Connie Johnson won the Democratic run-off to face Rep. James Lankford (R-OK-5) to replace resigning Sen. Tom Coburn (R). Oklahoma’s Republican nature, especially in a midterm election, makes Mr. Lankford the prohibitive favorite for November.

House

AZ-1: The GOP primary found its way to “Political Overtime”, as the contest among state House Speaker Andy Tobin, rancher Gary Kiehne, and state Rep. Adam Kwasman ended in close fashion. With “thousands” of provisional and early ballots still to count, Speaker Tobin has a 469-vote lead over Mr. Kiehne with Rep. Kwasman close, but too far behind to overtake either first or second position. It is likely the Tobin lead will hold, but how long it takes to certify the race is another story. Such confusion will make it difficult for the eventual GOP nominee, probably Tobin, to quickly establish a strong general election foothold. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) is the incumbent. The general election is rated as a Toss-up.

AZ-2: As expected, former Air Force officer and 2012 congressional nominee Martha McSally easily won the Republican nomination setting up a re-match with Rep. Ron Barber (D). The last election was decided by less than one percent. Considering the turnout model and the Arizona political climate, Ms. McSally may well be soon rated a slight favorite once this race hits prime campaign time.

AZ-7: State Rep. Ruben Gallego (D) for all intents and purposes won this open congressional seat via his strong victory in the Democratic primary. No Republican is on the general election ballot in the safely Democratic downtown Phoenix district, so Mr. Gallego will only face a Libertarian, Independent, and write-in candidate in the general election. The Congressman-in-waiting will succeed retiring Rep. Ed Pastor (D) in January.

AZ-9: Ex-Air Force officer Wendy Rogers outdueled former Oakland Raiders and Arizona State University football quarterback Andrew Walter to win the Republican congressional nomination in their suburban southern Maricopa County district. Ms. Rogers will now challenge freshman Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) in the general election. This district leans Democratic, but could come into play if a Republican wave were to develop. For now, Rep. Sinema must be considered a decided favorite to win re-election.

FL-18: In another district that could yield a competitive race for the fall, former state Rep. and businessman Carl Domino easily won the Republican primary earlier this week. Despite the more Republican nature of the Palm Beach area district, freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) is favored for re-election.

FL-26: In what will be a highly competitive race for the fall, Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo easily won the GOP congressional nomination and will challenge freshman Rep. Joe Garcia (D) in a district that normally favors Republicans. Former Rep. David Rivera (R), who lost the seat in 2012 because of related scandals, finished fourth in a five-way field and failed to even receive 10% of the vote.

OK-5 Run-off: Another district that realistically chose a Congressman was the Oklahoma City district. There, Republicans nominated former state Senator, author, and Iraq War veteran Steve Russell. He defeated state Corporations Commissioner Patrice Douglas 59-41%. Mr. Russell, a former Army Lt. Col., led the team that captured Saddam Hussein. He then wrote the book, “We Got Him” to describe the series of events that led to the dictator’s apprehension. The CD’s heavy Republican voting history makes Russell the prohibitive favorite in November.

Governor

Arkansas: While the Opinion Research poll covered in the Arkansas Senate section of this report gives the Democratic incumbent a five-point lead, they find the open gubernatorial contest evolving into a dead heat. According to their numbers, ex-Reps. Mike Ross (D-AR-4) and Asa Hutchinson (R-AR-3) are tied at 44% apiece. Though Arkansas is beginning to trend Republican, this race must continue to be considered a toss-up, just as this Opinion Research poll projects.

Arizona Primary: As polling correctly predicted, state Treasurer and former Cold Stone Creamery CEO Doug Ducey won the Republican gubernatorial nomination, easily outdistancing former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, attorney Christine Jones, and two also-rans including former California Congressman Frank Riggs (R-CA-1). Mr. Ducey will now face former Clinton Administration official Fred DuVal (D) in the general election. Public Policy Polling already tested the Arizona electorate on primary election night and found, when adding “leaners” for both candidates, that the two men are tied with 35% support apiece. The race should be considered a toss-up, but more likely moving in Ducey’s direction than DuVal’s.

Florida Primary: Both Gov. Rick Scott (R) and ex-Gov. Charlie Crist (D) easily won their respective party primaries. Gov. Scott recorded an 88% victory; Crist 74%. Now the toss-up general election is officially underway.

Georgia: The aforementioned Landmark/Rosetta Stone poll (see GA Senate above) also tested the state’s gubernatorial race. The results here also favor the Democratic candidate. According to Landmark, state Sen. Jason Carter (D), grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, leads Gov. Nathan Deal (R) 44-40%.

Kansas: The aforementioned Survey USA poll (see KS Senate above) again finds Gov. Sam Brownback (R) trailing state House Minority Leader Paul Davis (D). In this configuration, Davis leads the Governor 48-40%. But, the Brownback campaign responded with their own internal survey, a Cole Hargrave Snodgrass Associates poll (8/17-20; 500 KS likely voters) that gives their client the slightest of leads, 43-42%. The poll analysis makes clear what the campaign will attempt to accomplish strategically...tie Davis to President Obama. The poll report highlights that only 6% of those responded rate the President’s job perfomance as “Excellent” as compared to 52% who believe it is “Poor”. This is a contest that should not be in play, but all data, and now even the Governor’s own poll, points towards a toss-up rating.

Minnesota: The previously covered Survey USA Minnesota poll (See MN Senate above) also tested the state’s gubernatorial campaign. Gov. Mark Dayton (D), after a very close victory in 2010, is seeking re-election this year. S-USA finds him leading Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson (R) 49-40%. The race has the potential of becoming closer but it is unlikely that Johnson will overtake the incumbent.

Oregon: A new Republican poll was released this week showing GOP state Sen. Dennis Richardson getting into competitive range against Gov. John Kitzhaber (D). Moore Information (8/5-7; 500 OR likely voters), polling for the Richardson campaign, finds their client trailing the Governor 41-45%. The state situation, particularly with the debacle surrounding the healthcare registration process where literally no one was able to enroll, makes Kitzhaber more vulnerable than in the past. He is serving his third non-consecutive term as Governor. The incumbent still must be considered the favorite, but the state situation brings questions about the race.

Wisconsin: Marquette Law School, now a regular Wisconsin political pollster, released their latest offering (8/21-24; 815 WI registered voters) and its results are consistent with most other polls of the race between Gov. Scott Walker (R) and Madison School Board member and businesswoman Mary Burke (D). The Marquette split is 48-44%. Gov. Walker is a polarizing figure, so any election involving him will be close. Expect the 2014 vote to be no different. Marquette is likely correct: if the election were today, Walker would win a relatively close vote.