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Period Ending September 26, 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: Last week we reported upon the Harstad Research survey (9/7-10; 709 AK likely voters) that posted Sen. Mark Begich (D) to a 45-40% advantage over former Attorney General Dan Sullivan (R), but new data suggests change. Public Policy Polling (9/18-21; 880 AK likely voters) now posts Sullivan to a 43-41% edge. Rasmussen Reports (9/23-24; 750 AK likely voters) confirms the Sullivan lead. Their data gives the Republican challenger a 48-43% advantage. Overlaying historical voting patterns over the current polling suggests that Sullivan is pulling into upset position.

Arkansas: Two Arkansas surveys were released this week, each showing a different race leader. Public Policy Polling (9/18-21; 1,453 AR likely voters) finds Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR-4) holding a rather substantial 43-38% advantage. That is quickly countered by Suffolk University, polling for USA Today (9/20-23; 500 AR likely voters), which re-establishes Sen. Mark Pryor (D) with a small 45-43% lead. But the warning sign for Pryor comes in his job approval ratio. PPP detects a poor favorability ratio for Sen. Pryor, 36:51% positive to negative, while Suffolk, even when projecting the Senator to be ahead, finds his job rating down to 38:49%.

Colorado: The brand new Public Policy Polling survey for the liberal Americans for Tax Fairness and ProgressCO (9/19-21; 652 CO likely voters) gives Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO-4) a 47-45% edge over Sen. Mark Udall (D). After the Senator establishing a small but consistent lead for the better part of two months, Gardner has now led in four consecutive surveys. This race remains close and still must be considered a pure toss-up.

Georgia: Survey USA went into the field in the Peach State (9/19-22; 550 GA likely voters) and found Republican businessman David Perdue clinging only to a 46-45% lead over non-profit organization director Michelle Nunn (D). Though the ballot test is tightening, the GOP still should have a turnout model advantage when November 4th arrives, suggesting the Republican candidates still maintain an inherent advantage throughout the entire midterm election ballot. Mr. Perdue must still be considered at least a slight favorite to hold this Senate seat for his party. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) is retiring, which opened the seat. One more caveat: Georgia does require a majority vote to win election to its statewide positions. Therefore, a slight possibility exits that the race could advance to a December run-off if neither candidate exceeds 50% of the vote.

Senate Outlook: As we turn into the final month of the 2014 election cycle, the Senate majority is very much up for grabs. Eleven states are undecided, and how those races fall will determine if Democrats or Republicans claim power in the next Congress. Right now, it is presumed that the GOP will gain at least three seats, those of retiring veteran Democratic Senators in Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia. If they hold vulnerable seats in Kentucky and Georgia, their total will be 47, with only Kansas to protect. Democrats are scrambling to hold their vulnerable seats in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, and Louisiana. Today, both the open Michigan seat and the incumbent race in North Carolina appear to be trending the Democrats’ way with at least an even shot that the Independent/Democratic coalition in Kansas unseats Sen. Pat Roberts (R). Assuming such is the case, the Senate count then becomes R:47; D:47. A 50R-49D result on election night, meaning a likely December 6th Louisiana run-off election between Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) and Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA-6) alone deciding the Senate majority is a distinct possibility.

House

CA-10: The northern California 10th District is another lean Republican/marginal congressional district. Rep. Jeff Denham (R) has won two elections here, and is favored to advance to a third term. His 2014 opponent, businessman Michael Eggman (D), just released the results of his internal GBA Strategies survey (9/18-21; 400 CA-10 likely voters). The ballot test gives the Congressman a very believable 49-41% advantage.

GA-12: Rep. John Barrow (D) has shown great resiliency and a shrewd political ability to hold what should be a lean Republican district. His task is even greater in a midterm election when the district’s sizable minority population voter participation factor greatly diminishes. A new poll from Republican challenger Rick Allen’s campaign (Public Opinion Strategies; 9/15-17; 400 GA-12 likely voters) projects Rep. Barrow only to a 44-42% edge. The district has an African American population of 35.4%, and it will be the turnout figure within this key Democratic constituency that determines whether Mr. Barrow returns for a sixth term.

HI-1: A new independent poll provided a surprising result in Hawaii’s Honolulu seat during the past week. The Merriman River Group, who regularly polls for the Civil Beat political blog, surveyed the HI-1 electorate (9/11-14; 551 registered voters) and found Republican former Rep. Charles Djou holding a 44-42% advantage over state Rep. Mark Takai, who won a crowded Democratic primary. Mr. Djou won a jungle format special election in 2010, when then-Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D) resigned the seat to concentrate on his successful run for Governor. In the general election later that year, Rep. Djou lost to then-state Sen. President Colleen Hanabusa (D). He returned to challenge her again in 2012, losing 44-53%. The seat is heavily Democratic, so Djou remains an underdog.

IA-3: A new poll was released in this marginal Des Moines-anchored district, opened by Rep. Tom Latham’s (R) retirement. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) released the results of their Greenberg Quinlan Rosner survey (9/15-17; 400 IA-3 likely voters) giving their candidate, former state Sen. Staci Appel (D) a reduced 47-44% edge over ex- congressional aide David Young (R). This race is one of the Democrats’ best potential conversion opportunities in the nation.

MN-7: For the first time since 1994, Rep. Collin Peterson (D) has a significant challenge. His Republican opponent, state Sen. Torrey Westrom who was blinded in an accident many years ago, released an internal Tarrance Group poll (9/21-23; 402 MN-7 likely voters) that shows the Congressman leading only 45-40%. Without having access to the entire poll, it is difficult to know if the reported spread comes from the first ballot test, but this race is one to monitor…at least in the short term.

NH-1 & NH-2: The New England College went into the field in the Granite State to test the state’s two congressional campaigns. In the swing 1st District (9/19-20; 715 NH-1 likely voters), Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D) and former Rep. Frank Guinta (R) are locked in a 45-45% tie. This is the third contest between the two candidates, with each individual winning one time. In the more Democratic 2nd CD (9/19-20; 779 NH-2 likely voters) NEC finds Rep. Annie Kuster (D) leading state Rep. Marilinda Garcia (R) 49-38%.

Governor

Alaska: The Democrats’ ploy of coalescing behind an Independent candidate may well be working. A new Public Policy Polling survey (9/18-21; 880 AK likely voters) finds Independent candidate Bill Walker leading Gov. Sean Parnell (R) 42-41%. When it became clear that a three-way contest would re-elect Parnell, Democrats and Independents pooled their resources and decided to back a Walker/Byron Mallott slate for Governor and Lt. Governor on the Independent Party ballot line. Mallott was the Democratic gubernatorial nominee who agreed to drop down to the Lt. Governor’s race on a unifed Independent ticket.

Florida: Two surveys, Quinnipiac University (9/17-22; 991 FL registered voters) and Survey USA (9/19-22; 588 FL likely voters) finds Gov. Rick Scott (R) again leading ex-Gov. Charlie Crist (D) by the slimmest of margins. The Q-Poll gives Scott a slight 44-42% split, while S-USA finds the Governor up by an almost identical 44-43% margin. Early in the cycle, Gov. Scott trailed by a large deficit but has used his campaign finances to battle back into what most believe is the slightest of leads.

Georgia: Survey USA brings some disconcerting news to Gov. Nathan Deal and the Republicans. According to data from their 9/19-22 poll (550 GA likely voters), state Sen. Jason Carter (D) now leads Gov. Deal 45-44%. Deal will have to get a significant push in the campaign stretch drive to rack up a convincing victory. The turnout model still favors the Governor, but former President Jimmy Carter’s grandson is proving to be a formidable opponent.

Michigan: After a series of polls were indicating that Gov. Rick Snyder (R) had fallen into a virtual tie with ex-Rep. Mark Schauer (D-MI-7), a new Rasmussen Reports poll (9/17-18; 750 MI likely voters) again restores the Governor to a lead beyond the margin of error. The RR data posts Snyder to a 47-41% advantage.

New York: Rasmussen Reports released a poll of the NY Governor’s race (9/22-23; 825 NY likely voters) and finds incumbent Andrew Cuomo (D) dropping below 50% for the first time in the entire election cycle. The RR figures project the Governor to be leading his opponent, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino (R), 49-32%. Similarly, NBC/Marist (9/17-21; 511 NY likely voters) finds the Governor in much better political shape, leading 54-29%. Though Mr. Cuomo’s support has been dropping since before the Democratic primary in September, he is in no danger of losing the general election.