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Period Ending September 19, 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: Harstad Research, polling for the Senate Majority PAC and the Put Alaska First liberal organization (9/7-10; 709 AK likely voters) finds Sen. Mark Begich (D) leading former Attorney General Dan Sullivan (R) 45-40%, which is consistent with other polling. But, national statistical analyst Nate Silver just conducted a study of political polling in Alaska since the 2000 election, inclusive, and finds a relatively severe skew in favor of Democrats. According to the Silver data from his Five-Thirty-Eight research organization, in analyzing 31 different statewide polls from a myriad of pollsters during the twelve-year period, survey research results have skewed Democratic by a whopping 7.2 average percentage. If this pattern continues in 2014, Sen. Begich is in a much more precarious position than current surveys indicate.

Iowa: News stories are quoting unnamed Republican sources as saying that party leaders are concerned that US Senate nominee Joni Ernst (R) candidacy is starting to slip away, but the independent polling shows no such thing. The Fox News bi-partisan poll conducted jointly with the Democratic firm Anderson Robbins Research and Republican-oriented Shaw & Company Research (9/14-16; 600 IA likely voters) finds Ms. Ernst and Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA-1) tied at 41% apiece. The race has basically been a dead heat throughout the summer.

Kansas: More drama unfolds in the Kansas Senate race as Democrat Chad Taylor’s attorneys made their arguments before the state Supreme Court that the candidate should be allowed to withdraw. Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) had ruled that Taylor’s name can only be removed if, as stated in Kansas election law, that he is incapacitated in such a manner that he cannot perform the duties of office to which he seeks. In an unsurprising move, the court ruled Thursday in Taylor’s favor, and Kobach is directed to remove the name from the ballot.

Democratic leaders want to coalesce behind Independent Greg Orman, who polling shows has a much better chance of unseating Sen. Pat Roberts (R) without a Democratic nominee on the ballot. A new Public Policy Polling survey (9/11-14; 1,328 KS likely voters) gives Orman a 46-36% edge directly against Roberts. In a multi-candidate configuration, the Independent continues to lead, but this time his margin is 41-34-6-4% over the Senator, Taylor, and Libertarian candidate Randall Batson. But, the Fox News bi-partisan poll conducted jointly by the Democratic firm Anderson Robbins Research and Republican-oriented Shaw & Company Research (9/14-16; 604 KS likely voters) finds the Senator clinging to a 40-38-2% lead, but only with Taylor still receiving 11 percent. This race, despite Kansas being one of the strongest Republican states in the country, is now a clear Toss-up.

Louisiana: Gravis Marketing (9/5-9; 426 LA registered voters) conducted a small sample survey that produced numbers consistent with the many other US Senate public polls. Gravis finds Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) and Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA-6) deadlocked in a 45-45% tie. In a shock poll, the Fox News bi-partisan poll conducted jointly by the Democratic firm Anderson Robbins Research and Republican-oriented Shaw & Company Research (9/14-16; 617 LA likely voters) posts Rep. Cassidy to his largest lead of the election cycle, a hard to believe 51-38% split. Since this survey is so different than any other available data, the possibility that the Fox poll is an outlier is strong.

New Hampshire: A series of surveys has been released, all covering the 9/9-15 period, with sample sizes ranging from 544 (American Research Group) to 2,214 (Magellan Strategies). Six separate pollsters were in the field during this time frame and the results range from a high for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) of 51-40% (New England College) and 51-43% (Kiley & Company for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee) to a two-point lead (46-44%) for former Sen. Scott Brown (R) on the other side of the spectrum (Magellan Strategies). The remaining results find Shaheen leading 50-45% (ARG) and 48-42% (Rasmussen Reports). The CNN/ORC data projects a flat 48-48% tie between the two candidates. In summation, Sen. Shaheen generally leads the race, but ex-Sen. Brown, now the state’s official Republican nominee, has momentum and the prospects for an upset cannot be ruled out.

North Carolina: Two more pollsters returned NC results this week. American Insights (9/5-10; 459 NC likely voters) finds Sen. Kay Hagan (D) leading state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) 43-34%. The likely voters were culled from the full sample of 600 respondents. Elon University (9/5-9; 1,078 NC residents; 938 NC registered voters; 629 NC likely voters) also found the Senator to be holding the superior position. Among likely voters, she topped Tillis 45-41%, even though 71% of this same respondent segment believes the country is on the wrong track. Sen. Hagan is now beginning to peak at the right time, enjoying her best numbers of the entire election cycle. The Fox News bi-partisan poll conducted jointly by the Democratic firm Anderson Robbins Research and Republican-oriented Shaw & Company Research (9/14-16; 605 NC likely voters) largely confirmed the aforementioned data. They find Sen. Hagan leading Mr. Tillis 41-36%, with Libertarian Party candidate Sean Haugh receiving six percent.

House

CA-52: In what has projected to be a toss-up congressional campaign between Rep. Scott Peters (D) and former San Diego City Councilman and mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio (R), Survey USA (9/11-15; 559 CA-52 likely voters) confirms the analysis. Their data posts Rep. Peters to only a 47-46% slight edge. Clearly, this campaign can go either way and will likely be subject to national trends. Interestingly, the data reveals only a small gender gap between the two candidates. DeMaio leads 47-45% among men, whereas the Congressman has a 49-44% edge with women.

FL-26: McLaughlin & Associates, which has endured some bad misses in recent elections including not predicting then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA-7) defeat, just released new data in the Miami-Dade district of freshman Rep. Joe Garcia (D). Their results give Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo a 44-40% edge in a district that should lean to the GOP. Rep. Garcia defeated scandal-tainted Rep. David Rivera (R) two years ago and now faces a campaign finance inquiry of his own. This is a legitimate Republican conversion opportunity.

NH-1: Two pollsters, New England College (7/10-11; 607 NH registered voters via automated response system) and Normington Petts (9/3-7; 800 NH registered voters statewide), found a tight congressional race. NEC finds Rep. Carol Shea-Porter holding a 46-42% advantage over former Rep. Frank Guinta (R). NP projects an even closer contest, 45-43 percent.

NH-2: The same firms as identified in the NH-1 segment find Rep. Annie Kuster (D) holding a 50-37% lead (New England College) over state Representative Marilinda Garcia (R), while Normington Petts extracts a much closer 44-38% ballot test.

NY-1: Siena College also tested the competitive 1st District race, encompassing the eastern part of Long Island. Their poll (9/7-11; 592 NY-1 likely voters) projects six-term Rep. Tim Bishop (D) to a 51-41% advantage over state Sen. Lee Zeldin (R). This race has been viewed as a sleeper because Bishop has been enduring a campaign finance investigation, had a very close call in 2010, and the district has a habit of making a change every ten years or so. But, these numbers don’t show an imminent upset.

NY-11: Surprisingly, Siena College has produced a poll (9/9-14; 585 NY-11 likely voters) that projects indicted Rep. Michael Grimm (R) to a 44-40% advantage over New York City Councilman Domenic Recchia (D). The Congressman must stand trial in December on charges relating to his activities while running a restaurant prior to his election to Congress. The 11th District covers Staten Island, Grimm’s home, and part of Brooklyn, Recchia’s domain. The data reveals Grimm with a nine-point lead on Staten Island, while Recchia has a seven-point advantage in Brooklyn.

Governor

Alaska: Hays Research, polling for the AFL-CIO (9/13-14; 500 AK likely voters), produces the first public poll since Democrat Byron Mallott and Independent Bill Walker joined forces. As you will remember from earlier in the month, Mallott, the party nominee, agreed to leave the race for Governor and became Walker’s Lt. Governor running mate on an Independent slate. The idea was to coalesce the anti-Gov. Sean Parnell (R) forces. According to the Hays data, the ploy may be working. Their results give Walker a 37-30% lead over the Governor, including leaners. Obviously, the uncommitted mark is extremely high for this late in an election cycle, but the circumstances of changing the players mid-stream is leading to greater uncertainty. The biggest trouble sign for Parnell is that his hard support registers only 24.8% as compared to Walker’s 33.2%. For an incumbent to be this low in committed support suggests major re-election trouble.

Colorado: This week’s Colorado gubernatorial polling has something for everyone. Three independent pollsters find vastly different results. Myers Research, for the liberal organization Project New America (9/7-14; 1,350 CO likely voters) finds Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) leading former Rep. Bob Beauprez (R) 41-34%. But, Quinnipiac University (9/10-15; 1,211 CO likely voters) gives Republican Beauprez a substantial 50-40% advantage over Hickenlooper. Finding a middle ground, Suffolk University/USA Today (9/13-16; 500 CO likely voters) sees the Governor leading only 43-41%. Obviously, these results are across the board. The Quinnipiac data is based upon a new likely voter formula, which may be skewing too Republican. The aggregate tells us that this race is very much alive, and that the outcome is still unclear.

Iowa: The Quinnipiac University poll for the Hawkeye State (9/10-15; 1,167 IA likely voters) seems off the charts. Here, the survey posts Gov. Terry Branstad (R) to a huge 60-37% mark over state Sen. Jack Hatch (D). This is an outlier result that reaches far beyond any other polling result or actual voting percentage that Branstad has tallied throughout his long career. The Governor has five times been elected non-consecutively since 1982, but has never recorded such a huge landslide as the Q-Poll projects. The Fox News bi-partisan polls (see IA Senate above) finds numbers much more in line with other available polling results. According to this data, the Governor holds a 50-37% advantage. While the Branstad voter differs wildly, the two diverse polling results do forecast the same level of support for Hatch, however.

Kansas: The aforementioned Fox News bi-partisan polls (see KS Senate above), joins the predominant polling opinion that Gov. Sam Brownback (R) is trailing. According to this data, state House Minority Leader Paul Davis (D) leads the Governor 45-41%, with Libertarian Party candidate Keen Umbehr taking four percent. Though Brownback appears to be closing the gap, he is still behind outside the polling margin of error in most surveys.

Massachusetts: The first post-September 9th primary poll is now public, and the MassInc Polling Group for WBUR public radio (9/11-14; 504 MA likely voters) finds Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) holding a 41-34% first ballot test lead over businessman Charlie Baker (R). Coakley has weakness, as her 2010 special US Senate election loss to Republican Scott Brown indicates, so expect this race to close as Election Day nears.

Ohio: Gov. John Kasich (R) is beginning to dominate his imploding Democratic opponent, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald. According to a Columbus Dispatch “mail” poll (9/3-5; 1,185 OH registered voters), the Governor is swamping FitzGerald 59-29%. While there is no doubt that Kasich is leading the race and the FitzGerald campaign continues to crumble, seeing such a huge lead is unrealistic for a close political state like Ohio. While the 59% figure may be in line with Kasich’s eventual final vote, the Democratic share will rise considerably.

Rhode Island: Republican gubernatorial nominee Allan Fung released the results of his internal Public Opinion Strategies poll (9/10-11; 500 RI likely voters) and finds he and Democratic nominee Gina Raimondo are tied at 42% apiece. The poll was taken the day after the Rhode Island primary. Expect Raimondo to pull away once the next polls are released.

Wisconsin: Marquette Law School, as they have done since the 2012 gubernatorial recall election, again fielded a poll of the Wisconsin electorate (9/11-14; 800 WI registered voters; 589 likely voters). Among the likely voters, the results give Gov. Scott Walker (R) a 49-46% edge over Madison businesswoman and school board member Mary Burke (D). In the larger registered voters’ pool, the two are tied at 46%.