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Period Ending September 13, 2019

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

President

Howard Schultz: In what seemed to be a clear signal that he would not continue his independent run for President when he ceased activities due to a series of medical procedures, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz formally announced early this week that he would not pursue his 2020 candidacy. Included in his statement was a point expressing his desire not to become an impediment to former Vice President Joe Biden having a clear shot in the general election to unseat President Trump.

Republicans: The Republican leadership in at least four states is moving toward canceling their primary or caucus, and instead simply awarding all of their delegate votes to President Trump. The states seriously weighing the option include two of the "First Four," South Carolina and Nevada, the electorates from which are scheduled to vote in February. Kansas and Arizona are the other two states. Others could then follow their lead.

This act is not particularly unusual. Several states in both parties have previously canceled primaries when their party held the Presidency. Such happened for Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. The leaders argue that party funds spent to help administer the primary election or caucus meetings would be better spent in the general election to support their candidates.

Emerson College Poll: Emerson College tested the New Hampshire Democratic electorate (9/6-9; 481 NH likely Democratic primary voters) and, like many other pollsters, found former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren entangled in a tight race at the top. This survey finds Mr. Biden topping the field with 24%, and Sen. Warren close behind at 21%. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders pulls 13% support from this respondent group. But the surprise finding is South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg returning to double-digit figures after a relatively long absence. He pulls 11% support, just behind Sanders and ahead of California Sen. Kamala Harris, whose preference figure is 8 percent. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard also turns in her best polling performance. She registers 6% in the Emerson poll, the first time she has exceeded the 5% threshold in any survey.

Texas Polls: Quinnipiac University, YouGov, and Climate Nexus all surveyed the Texas Democratic primary electorate, and each finds former Vice President Joe Biden taking the lead in this important state, the second largest national convention delegation with 228 first ballot votes. All of the polls were conducted between August 20th and September 9th with relatively small sample sizes - between 456 (Q-Poll) and 639 (CN) respondents - and arrive at similar findings. Two of the three, Q-Poll and YouGov, find Sen. Elizabeth Warren capturing second place, while Climate Nexus still sees Texas favorite son Beto O'Rourke holding that position.

YouGov Polls: The YouGov international polling organization conducted simultaneous surveys for the February voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. Though these states are small, having only 155 combined delegates, they tend to set the tone for Super Tuesday and the bulk of the voting. According to YouGov, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) are close in each of the four places. Mr. Biden leads in Iowa and South Carolina, Sen. Sanders places first in Nevada, and Sen. Warren tops the field in New Hampshire. None of the other candidates even reach double-digits in any of the four states.

Senate

Colorado: Former US Attorney John Walsh has ended his campaign for the Democratic Senatorial nomination and, while doing so, publicly endorsed former Gov. John Hickenlooper. Mr. Walsh becomes the second candidate to exit, following former state Sen. Mike Johnston. Eleven others, however, remain. Mr. Walsh said he believes that Mr. Hickenlooper has the best chance to unseat Sen. Cory Gardner (R), which, he says, is the ultimate goal.

Georgia: As has been speculated upon for several months, former special election congressional candidate Jon Ossoff (D), who raised over $31.6 million for his 6th District losing campaign in 2017, announced that he will run for the US Senate. In a bit of a surprise, however, Mr. Ossoff decided to challenge Sen. David Perdue (R) in the regular election rather than entering the special election against the eventual appointed GOP incumbent. Because Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) is resigning at the end of the year due to health problem, both of Georgia's Senate seats will be on the ballot in 2020.

Massachusetts: A new Suffolk University poll (9/3-5; 500 MA likely Democratic primary voters) confirms what we saw in last week's released Change Research survey (8/23-25; 808 MA likely Democratic primary voters) that found Sen. Ed Markey badly trailing Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Newton) in next year's Senate Democratic primary, 42-25%. According to the Suffolk results, Rep. Kennedy opens with a 35-26% lead over Sen. Markey with the other candidates way below the double-digit mark. If Markey and Kennedy were to square-off by themselves, Suffolk projects Mr. Kennedy's lead would expand to 42-28%, this despite both men having strong favorability index ratios. Mr. Kennedy has not committed to making the race but has said he is considering entering the contest.

New Hampshire: Emerson College surveyed the Republican statewide electorate (9/6-9; 379 NH likely Republican primary voters) and found former Trump Campaign manager Corey Lewandowski jumping out to a large lead over his two Republican potential opponents. Mr. Lewandowski has not committed to running, and it is unclear at this time whether he will enter the race. Irrespective of his status, Emerson finds Lewandowski leading retired Army General Don Bolduc, and former state House Speaker Bill O’Brien, 23-9-7%. At this point, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) appears secure for re-election.

Tennessee: US Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty, armed with President Trump's endorsement, officially announced his US Senate candidacy in hopes of succeeding retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R). So far, most of the notable Republican players are yielding to Mr. Hagerty, though he does face physician Manny Sethi in the GOP primary. The Democrats look to be coalescing behind Iraq War veteran James Mackler. At this point, Mr. Hagerty is opening as a heavy favorite in the Republican primary and for the general election.

Texas: State Sen. Pat Fallon (R-Prosper), who won his current position by defeating a veteran incumbent in the March 2018 Republican primary, has filed a US Senate exploratory committee. He is working the conservative leader base to test whether he could become a formidable GOP opponent to Sen. John Cornyn.

Two separate polls tested the Democratic Senate primary where the eventual winner will battle Sen. Cornyn, and the results are similar. Neither shows any candidate in position to win the nomination or avoid a secondary run-off election. The University of Texas for the Texas Tribune news publication (8/29-9/8; 550 TX likely Democratic primary voters) finds no candidate even reaching mid-double digits. Ragnar Research Partners also surveyed the Democratic electorate during a more recent period (9/3-5; 600 TX likely Democratic primary voters) and found a comparable split: retired Army helicopter pilot M.J. Hegar 12%, state Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas), non-profit exec Cristina Ramirez, and Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards all posting 10%, and former US Rep. Chris Bell trailing with 9% preference.

House

AL-2: The first Alabama name politician has filed an open 2nd District congressional campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission. Former state Attorney General Troy King (R) appears headed to joining the race and will be rated as one of the favorites to capture the Republican nomination. The GOP nomination process will basically be the election since AL-2 is a safely Republican seat. Five-term Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) is retiring.

NC-3 & 9: GOP nominees won both special congressional elections last night, as state Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Greenville) and state Sen. Dan Bishop (R-Charlotte) each overcame their Democratic opposition. Mr. Murphy, as expected, easily won the 3rd District seat, 62-37%, and will succeed the late Congressman Walter Jones, Jr. (R-Farmville). He defeated former Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas (D) in taking 16 of the district's 17 counties.

The 9th District was a battleground that saw more than $10 million expended by both sides. Sen. Bishop scored a hard fought 50.7 - 48.7% victory over Democratic businessman Dan McCready even though the Republican nominee was outspent. In addition to spending over $5 million from his campaign committee for the special election, Mr. McCready had raised and spent over $6 million for the 2018 general election in a campaign that ended with a disputed result. For his part, Sen. Bishop raised and spent just over $2 million but was aided by the majority of outside spending.

WI-5: With veteran Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Menominee Falls) not seeking a 22nd term next year, we can expect a crowded Republican primary to eventually form. The seat is the safest for the GOP in the Badger State, so the primary contest will be hard fought. Three people who won't be in the race, however, are former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, 2018 US Senate nominee Leah Vukmir, and Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow who all announced this week that they will not run for Congress next year. It is widely believed that Ms. Kleefisch is looking to challenge Governor Tony Evers (D) in 2022.

Other discussion centers around the Fitzgerald brothers. Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) is the state Senate Majority Leader. His brother is former state House Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald. A crowded field is still expected to form, possibly including former Gov. Scott Walker's son, Matt Walker, and several state legislators coming forth to run.

WI-7: With Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) scheduled to resign on September 23rd jockeying to replace him continues. For the Republicans, whose special election nominee will have the inside track to winning the seat, state Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua) is working to become a consensus congressional candidate. Other legislators have not yet jumped into the race, and yesterday former Gov. Scott Walker publicly endorsed Sen. Tiffany.

Governor

Louisiana: Baton Rouge-based pollster Bernie Pinsonat of the Southern Media and Opinion Research firm just released his new survey of the Louisiana electorate (9/3-6; 500 "chronic" voters) and the results suggest that Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) is on the cusp of winning outright in the October 12th jungle primary.

According to the Pinsonat data, Gov. Edwards commands 47% support as compared to US Rep. Ralph Abraham's (R-Alto/Monroe) 24%, with developer Eddie Rispone pulling 16%. The key for the challengers is forcing a November 16th secondary election. If no one receives majority support in the jungle primary, the top two finishers advance to a run-off. It is clear that Edwards will finish first in the primary. The question is will he go over the top or be forced into what could become, for him, a dangerous secondary election.

Missouri: Just a few days after drawing a Republican primary challenge from term-limited state Rep. Jim Neely (R-Cameron), who says he doesn't necessarily disagree with the incumbent on any key issue, Gov. Mike Parson (R) officially kicked-off his nomination campaign for a full term. Mr. Parson, elected Lt. Governor in the 2016 election, ascended to the Governorship when then-incumbent Eric Greitens (R) was forced to resign due to a sex scandal.

Democrats are coalescing around state Auditor Nicole Galloway, who, at this point in the cycle, appears to have an unencumbered path to her party's nomination. Gov. Parson is favored to win a full term in November of 2020.