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Period Ending September 25, 2015

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

President

Polls: Several national polls are showing a tightening of the Republican presidential contest, but Donald Trump still holds a discernible lead. Remembering that the national primary polls are irrelevant because the nomination will be decided at the state level, it is the more targeted local surveys that matter most. Testing states in the early going, we again find Mr. Trump’s first-in-the-nation New Hampshire standing to be strong. The new CNN-WMUR poll (9/17-23; 344 NH Republican primary voters; 314 NH Democratic primary voters) finds Trump attracting 26% support, with businesswoman Carly Fiorina pulling into second place with 16%, the only two candidates to finish in double-digits. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was third with 9% support. Among Democrats, it is again Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) out to a strong 46-30-14% lead against former First Lady Hillary Clinton and Vice-President Joe Biden.

Gov. Scott Walker: It had been no secret that Gov. Walker had been falling precipitously in the polls, but ending his presidential effort so quickly was unexpected. Gov. Walker suspended his campaign earlier in the week, citing poor polling and fundraising numbers, as well as excessive overhead spending. Since Walker’s support had already been dispersed to other candidates, it is unlikely that his departure will drastically change the campaign. Some of his key donors are reported heading to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), while Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) now becomes the only Midwestern Governor with a strong record still remaining in the presidential race. Walker exiting the race still leaves 15 GOP candidates running for the nomination.

Senate

Colorado: Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler (R) hasn’t yet announced for the Senate, but is coming very close. A new poll from the liberal group, End Citizens United, released a new survey that will encourage him. According to the Clarity Campaign Labs poll (9/10-13; 872 CO registered voters), Sen. Michael Bennet (D) leads Brauchler only 45-42%. Perhaps even more troubling for the Senator, his margin over wealthy businessman Robert Blaha, who is less known than Brauchler, is a virtually identical 45-41%. Blaha says he will defer to Brauchler if the District Attorney finally decides to run.

Iowa: Though veteran Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) appears secure for re-election, he has drawn Democratic opposition. State Sen. Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids) announced that he will challenge the venerable Senator, who was originally elected in 1980. This race is not likely to become a national Democratic target.

North Carolina: Sen. Richard Burr (R) has drawn his first official Democratic opponent. Spring Lake Mayor Chris Rey announced that he will challenge the two-term incumbent. Spring Lake is a small town of less than 15,000 people located just northwest of Fayetteville. Several state legislators still report to be considering entering the race, but it appears Sen. Burr will draw a lesser general election opponent than originally projected.

Pennsylvania: Harper Polling (9/9-10; 700 PA registered voters) surveyed the Pennsylvania electorate and found Sen. Pat Toomey (R) to be holding the lead he established early in the year. According to HP, Mr. Toomey leads former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA-7), 47-37%, and former gubernatorial chief of staff Katie McGinty (D), 48-34%. The Senator’s favorability index is 49:38% positive to negative. In the Democratic primary, Sestak claims a 40-30% advantage over McGinty, but the party leadership is publicly lining up behind the latter.

House

Florida Redistricting: The State Supreme Court, after the legislature adjourned without re-drawing the Florida congressional district map, required interested parties to submit maps to Second Circuit Judge Terry Lewis, the judicial authority who originally heard the redistricting cases. Judge Lewis will examine the maps and report a final version to the state Supreme Court for ultimate approval. With seven map versions already before Lewis, it will still be some time before the re-drawing process is finalized.

Harper Polling: The National Republican Congressional Committee contracted with Harper Polling to survey a series of districts around the country. This week, the Committee released five results, all in vulnerable Republican districts. The polls were conducted from September 9-16, and drew samples between 400 and 464 individuals. In Arizona, 2nd District freshman Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) leads two potential Democratic opponents 47-40% and 48-40%. From Illinois, freshman Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro/Carbondale) has a strong 51-35% lead over announced Democratic attorney C.J. Baricevic. In Michigan, veteran Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Tipton/Battle Creek) leads state Rep. Gretchen Driskell (D), 49-32%. Turning to New York, freshman Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro/Watertown) has a healthy 51-17-13% advantage over retired Army officer Mike Derrick (D), and Green Party nominee Matt Funicello. In Syracuse, Rep. John Katko (R) is in strong shape against Syracuse University professor Eric Kingson (D). The freshman Congressman, who defeated Rep. Dan Maffei (D) 59-39%, has a solid 51-28% lead over Kingson.

MD-7: Baltimore pastor Jamal Bryant (D), who announced his intentions to succeed Rep. Elijah Cummings (D) when the latter eventually vacated his House seat to run for the Senate, has already dropped out of the race. Rev. Bryant took his action soon after meeting with Mr. Cummings. It is becoming clear that the Congressman has decided not to run statewide and will seek re-election.

MN-8: Stewart Mills (R), who held Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Crosby/Duluth) to a 49-47% victory last year, has formed a 2016 exploratory committee. He expects to make an announcement of candidacy in October. Mills may find the going tougher under a presidential election year turnout in this twice Obama-carried district, however.

NH-1: Former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D), who was first elected to the House in 2006, defeated in 2010, re-elected in 2012, and defeated again in 2014, announced that she will run again next year. Rep. Frank Guinta (R) is seeking re-election, though a campaign finance situation involving a monetary transfer from his parents resulted in a Federal Election Commission fine. This has resulted in much negative publicity for the incumbent. Guinta has Republican primary opposition in the person of former University of New Hampshire business school dean Dan Innis. The two ran against each other in the 2014 primary, as well. Executive Councilor Chris Pappas (D), who is a potential gubernatorial or Senatorial candidate, immediately said he would not pursue a congressional campaign and endorsed Ms. Shea-Porter. The 1st District has defeated more incumbents since 2006 than any CD in the country. This is a top 2016 Democratic conversion opportunity. Should Guinta win re-nomination, it will be the fourth time the two would oppose each other, with the Congressman leading their individual political series, 2-1.

PA-2: Indicted Rep. Chaka Fattah (D) has drawn another Democratic primary opponent, in the person of Lower Merion Township Commissioner Brian Gordon. Already in the primary race is Democratic 9th Ward leader Dan Muroff. Rep. Fattah was indicted last month on more than 20 federal criminal counts. A crowded Democratic field, however, may give him an opportunity to win because his plurality base vote could be enough to carry him through against split opposition.

Governor

Louisiana: Several polls were introduced into the polling marketplace this week for the upcoming October 24th Louisiana primary campaign. All show state Rep. John Bel Edwards, the race’s lone Democrat, qualifying for the November 21st run-off election. Sen. David Vitter (R), under attack throughout the state, as expected, is shown to be qualifying for advancement in all. But the Public Policy Polling survey (9/21-22; 616 LA jungle primary voters for Gumbo PAC) finds Vitter faring poorly in a run-off with Edwards. The Senator, who posts a poor 34:51% favorability rating, would actually trail Edwards 38-50%. The race is clearly getting interesting as Vitter’s two Republican opponents, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, are launching attack ads against him. The attacks are almost assuring that Vitter cannot reach 50% in the jungle primary, which would mean outright election, and that Edwards will capture one of the two run-off positions against the split Republican field.

North Carolina: Elon University polled (9/17-21; 1,075 NC registered voters) the tight Governor’s race between incumbent Pat McCrory (R) and Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper. Like other pollsters, Elon found the race to be a virtual toss-up, with the Governor clinging to only a 43-42% edge.

Utah: Two weeks ago, Overstock.com CEO Jonathan Johnson announced a Republican primary challenge to Gov. Gary Herbert. This week, local Utah pollster Dan Jones & Associates conducted a statewide poll (9/8-17; 604 UT adult voters; undisclosed number of Republican primary voters) and found the incumbent to be in strong shape. Before the state as a whole, Gov. Herbert would lead 59-15%. But, among the critical Republican primary voter segment, where this campaign against Johnson would take place, Herbert boasts a commanding 74-11% advantage. Even among Tea Party Republicans the incumbent is strong. Within this voting segment, Gov. Herbert is preferred 60-19%.