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Period Ending September 25, 2020

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

President

Arizona/Florida: As a polling entity, the ABC News/Washington Post effort is rated as one of six A+ pollsters on the FiveThirtyEight statistical organization rating card. The media partners just released a pair of polls this week, one from Arizona and the other Florida. They both capture how much a survey sample can swing based upon segmentation, in this case from registered to likely voters.

The Arizona poll (9/15-20; 701 AZ registered voters; 579 AZ likely voters) finds President Trump trailing former Vice President Joe Biden, 47-49% with registered voters, but leading 49-48% among those who are most likely to vote. In Florida, we see an even greater split. That ABC/WP survey (9/15-20; 765 FL registered voters; 613 FL likely voters) projects that Mr. Biden is holding a bare 48-47% edge among those registered to vote but leads 51-47% within the segment of those most likely to cast their ballot. This example underscores the importance of the voter participation model in determining election outcomes.

ME-2; NE-2: Maine and Nebraska are the two states that split their electoral votes, and the pair of districts that have a tendency to vote opposite their state and award an electoral vote to the losing statewide candidate, ME-2 and NE-2, show leads for former Vice President Joe Biden even though they are must win races for President Trump.

Siena College/New York Times tested the 2nd District of Maine, the state's northern seat, (9/11-16; 440 ME-2 likely voters; live interview) and sees the Biden advantage to be 47-45%. The Democratic polling firm Global Strategy Group surveyed NE-2 (9/14-16; 400 NE-2 likely voters; live interview) and posts an even larger 51-45% Biden advantage in that district. Suffolk University released their own Maine poll. The 2nd District portion (9/17-20; 233 ME-2 likely voters; live interview) also forecasts a 47-45% split, thus providing support for the Siena College/NYT conclusion.

Senate

Alabama: The Alabama Republican challenger campaign has generally drawn little national attention, but a new Morning Consult survey (9/11-20; 658 AL likely voters; online from pre-determined sampling group) suggests that retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville (R) enjoys a major lead over Sen. Doug Jones (D). The MC results find Mr. Tuberville holding a strong 52-34% advantage over Sen. Jones. Winning this seat is critical to any chance the Republicans have of holding their Senate majority.

Arizona/Michigan: We have two more examples of pollsters testing the same electorate and arriving at vastly different conclusions. In Arizona, Morning Consult (9/11-20; 907 AZ likely voters; online from pre-determined sampling group) finds retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D) holding a nine-point, 49-40%, lead over appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R). While Fabrizio Lee & Associates also see Mr. Kelly with an edge, the margin is much different. From their survey (9/14-16; 800 AZ likely voters; live interview), Kelly's lead is only two points over Sen. McSally, 48-46%.

We see a similar pattern in Michigan. The Ipsos research organization (9/11-16; 637 MI likely voters) detects Sen. Gary Peters (D) with a six-point, 49-43%, spread over manufacturing company owner John James (R), while the Marketing Resource Group (9/14-19; 600 MI likely voters) sees only a two point difference between the two, 42-40%, with a greater undecided factor.

Georgia-B: Siena College/New York Times and Data for Progress went into the field almost simultaneously and both found appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R), Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville), and Baptist pastor Raphael Warnock (D) all within range to capture either first or second position in the jungle primary that will be held concurrently with Election Day.

Siena/NYT (9/16-21; 523 GA likely voters; live interview) projects Sen. Loeffler pulling 23% support, with both Rep. Collins and Rev. Warnock posting identical 19% support factors. Data for Progress (9/14-19; 800 GA likely voters) sees Rev. Warnock in first place with 26%, followed closely by Rep. Collins (22%) and Sen. Loeffler (21%). Leaners were added to the original totals for all candidates. Together, the polls tell us that no one can reach 50% on the first vote, and that a tough political dogfight is brewing for the two runoff positions.

Maine: Contrary to opinion that Maine Sen. Susan Collins (R) may have blown her re-election chances by immediately moving to postpone the vote on a successor to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Moore Information survey for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (9/20-22; 500 ME likely voters) finds Sen. Collins and state House Speaker Sara Gideon (D-Freeport) tied in their latest poll. Ms. Gideon has been ahead in the race for months, but this survey finds both candidates drawing 42%, apiece. It remains to be seen if this rather surprising trend continues as the SCOTUS replacement process begins in earnest.

South Carolina: The latest Morning Consult survey (9/11-20; 764 SC likely voters; online from pre-determined sampling group) finds Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) and former SC Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison in a virtual tie, with the incumbent holding the slimmest of leads, 46-45%. It is clear that Sen. Graham will attempt to use his position as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings as a way to improve his standing among Republican voters, a group with which he runs seven points behind President Trump on the party loyalty factor.

House

AR-2: A new brilliant corners Research & Strategies survey (9/10-16; 605 AR-2 likely voters; 102 over-sample of African American voters) has produced results that show three-term Rep. French Hill (R-Little Rock) actually falling behind his Democratic challenger, state Sen. Joyce Elliott (D-Little Rock), by a two-point margin, 48-46%. This study follows a Hendrix College survey taken in earlier in September (9/4-9; 698 AR-2 likely voters) that found Mr. Hill leading the race with a similar 48-46% edge. The brilliant corners' over-sample of African Americans could explain the flip toward Ms. Elliott, but the long-term history of this district favors the Democrats.

CA-21: Republican pollster American Viewpoint returned a survey in California's 21st District, a seat that encompasses parts of the cities of Fresno and Bakersfield (9/8-10; 400 CA-21 likely voters; live interview), and sees former US Rep. David Valadao (R) leading freshman Rep. T.J. Cox (D-Fresno) by a 49-38% margin. In 2018, Rep. Cox unseated Mr. Valadao by an 862-vote margin. The Republican appears to be in strong shape for the general election even though President Trump will lose this district.

IL-3: The Ogden & Fry research firm conducted a flash poll on September 7th (759 IL-3 likely voters based upon a 2020 projection model) and found a surprising result. The respondents favored Democrat Marie Newman with only a 46-44% margin over Republican Mike Fricilone, a Will County Board member. Even if this poll is accurate, the race won't turn into a competitive contest. Mr. Fricilone had only raised $49,000 through the last published financial disclosure report (June 30th), and is unlikely to have the resources to compete down the stretch. This is one of the eight seats where the incumbent, in this case Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Western Springs), was defeated in his primary.

IL-13: In 2018, Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) was re-elected with just a 50.4 - 49.6% margin, a spread of just 2,058 votes of almost 271,000 ballots cast. The GBAO polling organization just released the second public survey of this district (9/17-20; 600 IL-13 likely voters) for the 2020 campaign and sees a virtual rerun campaign between Mr. Davis and businesswoman and 2018 congressional nominee Betsy Dirksen Londrigan (D). The GBAO findings project a 48-47% Davis slight lead, almost identical to how their last campaign ended.

MI-3: We Ask America surveyed the district from September 19-20 (400 MI-3 likely voters; combination live interview and automated calls) and detects Republican Iraq and Afghan War veteran and grocery store magnate Peter Meijer leading attorney Hillary Scholten, 48-41%, with both candidates having almost identical favorability index ratings. Conversely, ALG (9/16-20; 501 MI-3 likely voters) arrives at a much different conclusion. This data finds Ms. Scholten holding a two-point, 44-42%, edge.

MT-AL: A Siena College/New York Times survey (9/14-16; 625 MT likely voters) finds Democratic former state Representative and 2018 congressional nominee Kathleen Williams taking a small lead over Republican State Auditor Matt Rosendale. The ballot test gives Ms. Williams a 44-41% edge, confirming that this race is turning into a toss-up campaign.

MN-2: An obscure law will take effect in this election because Legal Marijuana Now party nominee Adam Weeks unexpectedly passed away earlier this week. After the death of Sen. Paul Wellstone (D) eleven days before the election in 2002, which led to a fast and haphazard special election to replace him, an updated law was subsequently enacted that requires a special election well after the national Election Day if a major party candidate dies within 79 days of the general election.

Surprisingly, under Minnesota election law, the Legal Marijuana Now party is classified as "major." Therefore, the 2nd District election will now be decided in a special election on February 9th with a new Legal Marijuana Now nominee. This means incumbent Rep. Angie Craig (D-Eagan) will have a break in service as her term will expire at the end of the 116th Congress. This new schedule will cause a number of ramifications and likely be subject to a lawsuit. It is possible the Justice Department will step in, since the law appears to violate the federal statute that requires all states to hold federal elections on the national Election Day.

NJ-2: Party-switching New Jersey Congressman Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis Township/Atlantic City), who left the Democratic Party after a year in Congress, finds himself in a re-election fight with Amy Kennedy (D), the wife of former US Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI). A new Public Policy Polling survey, without using push questions (9/14-15; 550 NJ voters; interactive voice response system), posts Ms. Kennedy to a five-point, 48-43%, lead over the incumbent Congressman. Expect this race to draw more attention from both parties in the closing campaign weeks.

PA-17: The OnMessage polling firm, conducting their survey for the Sean Parnell campaign (9/2-3; 400 PA-17 likely voters), finds a close race developing in the Pittsburgh suburbs. The OnMessage results find Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh) clinging to only a one-point edge, 45-44%, over Mr. Parnell, an author and Afghan War veteran. PA-17 is one of the 30 districts President Trump carried in 2016 that a Democrat currently represents.

VA-5: The Global Strategy Group again tested Virginia's 5th District, one of the eight seats where partisan voters upended an incumbent, in this case freshman Rep. Denver Riggleman (R), during the nomination procedure. GSG's latest survey, conducted for the 314 Action organization (9/10-14; 400 VA-5 likely voters; live interview) finds Republican Bob Good leading Democratic physician Cameron Webb by a slight 47-46% margin. Though the seat should be comfortably Republican, this appears another Virginia district that is headed into the highly competitive realm.

WI-3: Wisconsin Rep. Ron Kind (D-La Crosse) was first elected in 1996 and has had only one close re-election contest since, in 2010 when he received just 50.3% of the vote. President Trump, however, carried the district 49-45% in 2016, proving that a Republican can win here. For the closing month, the Congressional Leadership Fund has decided to invest heavily here, reserving $2 million of media time in an effort to support Republican nominee Derrick Van Orden, a retired Navy SEAL and Afghan War veteran. Rep. Kind is more than prepared for the challenge, however. Through the July 22nd Federal Election Commission pre-primary filing, the Congressman was showing more than $3 million cash-on-hand.

Governor

Vermont: Two-term Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a rare Republican elected official in this state, looks to be in strong shape to secure a third two-year term. Braun Research for Vermont Public Radio and Vermont Public Broadcasting (9/3-15; 586 VT likely voters; live interview) finds Gov. Scott holding a whopping 55-24% lead over Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman (D).

Washington: A Strategies 360 survey (9/8-14; 501 WA registered voters; live interview) projects that two-term Gov. Jay Inslee (D) is poised to easily win a third term. The results find the Governor holding a strong 53-37% advantage over local town police chief Loren Culp (R) in a race that was never expected to be competitive.