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Period Ending September 2, 2016

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

President

The effects from Donald Trump’s Mexico trip, notwithstanding, the weekly polling again provided us with more of the same: Hillary Clinton leading in almost every poll, but Mr. Trump bridging the gap between them and making it even smaller. Six polls were in the field, and the rolling average for the surveys from 8/24-31 is 2.2 points when counting the Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California panel back survey. Considering the six polls, the swing runs from Clinton +7 (USA Today/Suffolk University) to Trump +2.6 (LA Times/USC).

Research indicates that the polling leader on September 1 has lost an average of about three percentage points from their popular vote polling total during the last two months of the campaign. The only winning candidate in the last 20 years to actually gain polling support after September 1 is Barack Obama in 2012. Using this historical model, and considering that Hillary Clinton is the September 1 polling leader, the numbers suggest we are headed for a very close conclusion.

Senate

Arizona: Despite Sen. John McCain (R) getting a polling boost right before the August 30 Arizona primary vote, his final vote total over former state Sen. Kelli Ward was underwhelming. The veteran Senator won re-nomination, but with only 52% of the Republican vote as compared to Ms. Ward’s 39%. The remaining two candidates split the final 9 percentage points. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-1) was unopposed for the Democratic Senatorial nomination. A pre-primary Public Policy Polling survey (8/26-28; 837 AZ likely voters) finds the new general election candidates deadlocked at 43%.

Florida: Sen. Marco Rubio (R) rebounded from his failed presidential campaign to score a major 72% Republican primary victory early in the week. He will advance to the general election and face Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter/West Palm Beach) who topped fellow Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL-9), by a landslide 59-19% margin. Polling projects Sen. Rubio to a lead just beyond the polling margin of error now that the general election has officially begun.

Missouri: The new Public Policy Polling Missouri data (8/26-27; 1,055 MO likely voters) confirms previous results for Sen. Roy Blunt (R) in his race against Secretary of State Jason Kander (D). The PPP ballot test reveals a spread of 47-43% in Sen. Blunt’s favor, exactly where the race has been for the past two months.

New Hampshire: Continuing the Public Policy Polling series (8/26-28; 977 NH likely voters), the released data shows Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) forging ahead of Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) 47-45%, continuing the virtual tie results we have seen for more than a year.

North Carolina: The Emerson College Polling Advisor (8/27-29; 800 NC likely voters) finds Sen. Richard Burr (R) to be slightly expanding his lead over challenger Deborah Ross (D), an ex-state legislator. The Emerson data finds Sen. Burr leading 45-41%. Public Policy Polling (8/26-27; 1,177 NC likely voters) released new results of its own. The polling directors’ latest ballot test projects Sen. Burr to a similar 46-43% advantage.

Ohio: PPP (8/26-27; 1,134 OH likely voters) also polled the Ohio electorate. They confirm all other polls showing Sen. Rob Portman (R) putting distance between he and his Democratic opponent, former Gov. Ted Strickland (D). Their data finds the Senator leading 48-39%, a margin consistent with all other polling.

Pennsylvania: Four PA Senate polls were simultaneously released at the end of the week from three separate pollsters. Three, from Monmouth University (8/26-29; 402 PA likely voters), Franklin & Marshall College (8/25-29; 496 PA likely voters), and Public Policy Polling (8/26-27; 1,194 PA likely voters) finds challenger Katie McGinty (D) taking a four, five, and six point lead, respectively, over Sen. Pat Toomey (R). One poll, the large sample effort from the Emerson College Polling Advisor (8/25-28; 800 PA likely voters), gives Sen. Toomey a 46-39% advantage. The diverse polling we’ve seen here for the past several weeks and the lead flipping back and forth between the two candidates suggest the race is in the toss-up category.

Wisconsin: Though all new polls again find former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) leading incumbent Ron Johnson (R), the latest released data reveals diverse margins. Five polls were in the field during the relatively same sampling period, producing Feingold leads of between three and 18 points. The Democratic firm Global Strategy Group conducted two surveys of 800 different likely voters between July 20 and August 25. The July data found Feingold’s advantage to be 52-41%. The August result is a whopping 55-37%. The new Public Policy Polling survey (8/26-27; 1,054 WI likely voters) gives the ex-Senator a 49-42% advantage over Mr. Johnson. The Monmouth University small-sample poll (8/27-30; 404 WI likely voters) shows a similar (to Global Strategy Group) 54-41% wide margin, but Marquette Law School (8/25-28; 650 WI likely voters), which has been accurately polling Wisconsin voters since the Gov. Scott Walker (R) recall election in 2012, finds a much closer result. They see Feingold holding only a 48-45% edge. There is no question that Mr. Feingold leads the race. The true margin is probably in the 7-10 point range, more than enough to record a victory in November should these patterns continue.

House

AZ-1: In Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick’s (D-Flagstaff) open swing 1st District, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu scored just under 32% of the vote in the August 30th primary to defeat three active opponents and two who had withdrawn from the race even though their names continued to appear on the ballot. For the Democrats, former state Sen. Tom O’Halleran, who served most of his time in the legislature as a Republican, scored a 59-41% victory over his lone opponent. The 1st District contains all of eastern Arizona and tilts Democratic largely because of the presence of large Indian reservations. Babeu has a controversial past, thus most likely making O’Halleran and the Democrats the favorites to retain the seat.

AZ-2: In a battle of two Democratic candidates with state legislative experience, ex-state Rep. Matt Heinz becomes the party nominee with a 53-47% win over Victoria Steele. Mr. Heinz advances to challenge freshman Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson), who won the closest general election of the 2014 cycle (a 167-vote spread). The Congresswoman has raised almost $3 million for her re-election, and starts out with a significant advantage over Heinz both in terms of campaign resources and early polling.

AZ-5: The closest Arizona primary result came in the open 5th District where Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Mesa) chose to retire. GoDaddy.com former executive Christine Jones appears to have won the Republican primary, eking out a close 578 vote win over state Senate President Andy Biggs, who attracted strong conservative organization support and that of the retiring Congressman. Biggs has yet to concede, choosing to wait until all remaining absentee and provisional votes are counted. Chances are, Jones’ margin will stand. The current result actually finds a tight four-way breakdown with Jones taking 30%, followed by Biggs’ 29%, while former Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley garnered 22%, and state Rep. Justin Olsen attracted 20% support. The eventual winner, almost assuredly Ms. Jones, takes the safely Republican seat in November.

FL-1: The first of many Florida congressional primary results finds state Rep. Matt Gaetz easily winning the crowded open seat Republican primary, as expected. He will succeed retiring Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Chumuckla/Pensacola) in November.

FL-2: The Florida Panhandle was the host of the closest Republican primary in the state, as physician Neal Dunn defeated conservative State Department former official Mary Thomas and US Attorney Ken Sukhia, 41-39-19%. With Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee) not seeking re-election in the newly re-drawn district that makes the seat safely Republican, Dr. Dunn will cruise to election in the fall. This will be a Republican conversion victory.

FL-4: Eight-term Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Jacksonville) retiring opens the door for ex-Duval County Sheriff John Rutherford. The former law enforcement official topped the Republican primary field with 39%, almost 20 points ahead of his closest challenger, state Rep. Lake Ray. Mr. Rutherford will win the general election in November, keeping the safely Republican seat in GOP hands.

FL-5: The 5th District was radically re-drawn in the court-ordered mid-decade redistricting plan, taking the seat to Tallahassee from its Jacksonville anchor. Before, it traveled due south to Gainesville, Sanford, and Orlando. The change led to former state legislator Al Lawson defeating veteran Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Jacksonville) in the Democratic primary, making the Congresswoman the fifth incumbent to lose re-nomination in this election cycle. Mr. Lawson, making his third bid for Congress, will win the general election.

FL-9: With Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Orlando) leaving the House seat to run unsuccessfully for Congress, his new wife, Dr. Dena Grayson (D), attempted to succeed him. She placed third. The winner is state Sen. Darren Soto (D), who will keep the safely Democratic seat in party hands. He will win a comfortable general election victory.

FL-10: The 10th District was also radically re-drawn, taking it from a marginal Republican district into a safely Democratic one. The chief beneficiary of the draw is former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings, who easily won the Democratic primary and with it, a trip to Washington as the next Congresswoman. This will be a Democratic conversion victory. Incumbent Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Orlando) chose to seek re-election in the open 11th District instead of this seat.

FL-11: Rep. Rich Nugent’s (R-Hernando County) retirement allowed Rep. Webster to seek re-election here, a new district in which the latter already represents 20% of the constituency. He defeated Nugent chief of staff Jason Grabelle, 60-40%, which now allows Rep. Webster to continue his congressional career representing this district. The new configuration begins in Lake County and moves west to the Gulf of Mexico.

FL-13: Though the primary result was not in doubt, this Pinellas County CD will now host a tough general election battle between Rep. David Jolly (R) and former Gov. Charlie Crist (D). The addition of St. Petersburg in redistricting swings the seat to a significant Democratic advantage, but Jolly has a fighting chance against Crist who has significant negative ratings and lost elections as a Republican, Independent, and a Democrat.

FL-18: This West Palm Beach area CD was left untouched in redistricting. It is a lean Republican district where Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter) had twice won. His departure into the Senate race gives the GOP a chance for conversion. The crowded Republican primary winner is disabled American veteran Brian Mast who scored an impressive win after running compelling ads about his military service and loss of limbs. He will face Democratic businessman Randy Perkins in the general election. His service record may give him a key advantage in the general election, and thus makes him a slight favorite to convert the seat.

FL-19: As expected, former US Ambassador to the Holy See Francis Rooney easily defeated Sanibel Island City Councilman Chauncey Goss and ex-Secret Service agent and Maryland congressional candidate Dan Bongino, to claim the Republican nomination in this Ft. Myers/Cape Coral anchored district. The 19th is one of the safest Republican seats in Florida, and was left in tact through the redistricting effort. Amb. Rooney will hold the seat in the fall, and replace retiring two-term Rep. Curt Clawson (R-Bonita Springs) who is not seeking re-election for family reasons.

FL-23: The primary attracting the most attention came in South Florida where former Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Weston) survived a tough re-nomination battle with law professor Tim Canova. The latter had strong support from the Bernie Sanders faction of the party, including the former presidential candidate’s endorsement. The Congresswoman was re-nominated with a 57-43% victory margin. She will claim a seventh term in November.

FL-26: Former Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Miami) scored a tight 51-49% Democratic primary victory over establishment favorite Annette Taddeo, and advances to the general election to force a re-match with freshman Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Miami). In 2014, Curbelo unseated Garcia in a more Republican version of the 26th District. This will be a hard fought general election, but a close Democratic primary producing a Garcia victory is precisely what Curbelo wanted in order to give him the strongest opportunity to win re-election. This is a national race to watch.

KY-1: Retiring Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Hopkinsville/Paducah) announced that he will resign from Congress effective on September 6. The action forces a special election to fill the balance of the current term. Gov. Matt Bevin (R) has already scheduled the special concurrently with the regular November election, meaning that former state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer (R), who won the GOP primary back in May, will take office immediately with his general and special election victory. Mr. Comer is a lock to win in November from this safely Republican district.