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Period Ending September 28, 2018

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

Senate

Florida: The University of North Florida's polling unit went into the field again (9/17-20; 603 FL likely voters via live interview) to test the Sunshine State major political campaigns. In the Senate race they find, like virtually every other pollster, that Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Gov. Rick Scott (R) are locked in a flat tie at 45%. The polls have been varying only a point or two for a number of months, and it is clear that the campaign's final weeks will be very active. A turnout surge from one side or the other will likely be the deciding factor. More polls have put Gov. Scott ahead but, with the tight margins that we've seen in this race for weeks, anything can happen in November.

Quinnipiac University, however, has a much different take in their latest survey. This one gives the incumbent quite a large lead. The data (9/20-24; 888 FL self-identified likely voters) projects Sen. Nelson to a 53-46% advantage.

Montana: Two September polls suggest that the National Republican Senatorial Committee's (NRSC) attack campaign upon two-term Sen. Jon Tester (D) is likely working. An Axis Research poll conducted for the NRSC (9/17-19; sample size not released but did claim to have a MT likely voter response universe) finds the Senator and Republican opponent Matt Rosendale, the Montana State Auditor, tied at 44%. An independent poll taken shortly before the Axis study from CBS News/YouGov (9/10-14; 453 MT likely voters) forecasted Sen. Tester to be holding only a two-point margin, 47-45%.

New Mexico: The NSON Opinion Strategies firm, polling for the Elect Liberty PAC (9/20-24; 932 NM likely voters), finds Libertarian US Senate nominee and ex-two term New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson edging closer to Sen. Martin Heinrich (D). According to the latest poll, Sen. Heinrich draws 35% support with Mr. Johnson solidly in second position at 28%. The Republican nominee, Labor Commission member Mick Rich, drops all the way to 10% according to this particular poll.

Ohio: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) has opened up a strong double-digit lead over US Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) according to two national polls. The NBC News/Marist College survey (9/16-20; 796 OH registered voters; 564 OH likely voters) finds the Senator topping Renacci and three minor party and independent candidates, 49-33-6-3-1%.

The Ipsos/Reuters study (9/13-21; 1,074 OH likely voters via online responses) largely confirms the result. They find the Senator expanding his advantage to 11 points in a 50-39% percentage spread. Though certain early polling models suggested that Renacci had an outside path to score an upset, there is little in the way of current data to back such a supposition.

Texas: A pair of interest groups released their own Public Policy Polling Texas survey, but are the responses being used twice? Both the liberal advocacy groups End Citizens United and Protect our Care were in the field with PPP during the September 19-20 period with what were largely push polls containing questions on campaign finance for the former group and healthcare for the latter. The sample size for End Citizens United was 613, while the Protect our Care study lists 603 responses. Not surprisingly, the ballot test result for each was virtually the same: Sen. Ted Cruz (R) leading Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-El Paso) by three percentage points, 49-46% (End Citizens United) and 48-45% (Protect our Care).

West Virginia: The polling firm handling Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's (R) campaign for US Senate just released a new study that flies in the face of other previously released results. The 1892 organization (9/24-25; 500 WV likely voters) finds Mr. Morrisey fighting back to tie Sen. Joe Manchin (D) at 45-45%. Other polls have found Sen. Manchin holding about a nine-point advantage, but little data has been made public during the last several weeks.

House

CA-50: A new Monmouth University poll (9/22-26; 401 CA-50 voters under various turnout models) finds indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) leading in his battle for re-election despite most people believing he is guilty of the charges being brought against him. Under the normal midterm turnout model, Rep. Hunter leads his Democratic opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, 53-38%. Under their “all voters” picture, his margin recedes to 49-41%, while he still scores majority support within a "Democratic surge" turnout model, 51-40%. The 50th District is normally a safely Republican seat, but Rep. Hunter's indictment makes the 2018 campaign one to watch.

FL-17: April Freeman, the Democratic political consultant and frequent candidate who won the party nomination in the open 17th District, passed away suddenly on Monday night of an apparent heart attack according to her husband. She was 54 years old.

Yesterday, Florida election authorities indicated that the local Democrats will be able to replace the late Ms. Freeman, but they cannot re-print ballots. Therefore, in order to vote for the new nominee, whoever that person may be, supporters will have to punch Ms. Freeman's name. Any Freeman vote will count for the replacement nominee. Republican state Sen. Greg Steube becomes the prohibitive favorite to win the open seat in November. Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Okeechobee) is retiring.

IL-4: Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D) is a lock to replace retiring Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago) with a certain November election victory, but he already may be planning a new campaign for another office. With Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) announcing that he will not seek re-election, a major open local race will get underway as soon as the current general election concludes.

While Cook County Commission President Toni Preckwinkle (D) and former Commerce Secretary Bill Daley (D) are already in the race, a mayoral fundraising committee was just launched for Congressman-to-be Garcia. Though the organization is not directly tied to Mr. Garcia, he is not dissuading them from continuing. In 2015, Garcia lost to Mayor Emanuel, 56-44%.

IL-5: Yesterday, another member of the Chicago congressional delegation made a declaration about the impending 2019 Mayor's race. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Chicago), first elected in a 2009 special election, said that he will not enter the 2019 open Mayor's race, choosing instead, presumably, to remain in the US House.

MI-8: Former Defense Department official Elissa Slotkin has been one of the Democrats' top challenger candidates. She raised more than $3 million through the July 18th pre-primary disclosure deadline for her congressional campaign, and now brandishes a poll that posts her ahead of Republican Rep. Mike Bishop (R-Rochester/Lansing).

According to her Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research 8th District survey (9/17-20; 400 MI-8 likely voters), Ms. Slotkin has jumped out to a 47-43% lead over the two-term Congressman. Mr. Bishop was first elected here in 2014 after then-Rep. Mike Rogers (R) decided not to seek an eighth term. He won the competitive open seat contest with a 55-42% margin, followed by a decisive 56-39% re-election win. This central Michigan race promises to be close all the way to Election Day.

NJ-2: It was always believed that when veteran New Jersey Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-Ventnor City) decided to retire Democratic state Senator Jeff Van Drew would succeed him. Such predictions are proving accurate as underscored in the latest William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University survey (9/12-18; 535 NJ-2 adult likely voters). According to the data, Sen. Van Drew holds a 55-32% margin over Republican Seth Grossman.

OH-1: Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Cincinnati) has already been waging a tough campaign against his opponent, Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval (D). Both candidates have been streaming a barrage of negative ads into the southwestern Ohio media market. According to a new American Viewpoint survey for the CLF (9/18-20; 400 OH-1 likely voters), Rep. Chabot is now leading the race, 46-39%. The 1st District contains about half the city of Cincinnati and 63% of Hamilton County. It then annexes all of Warren County to the northeast.

VA-7: A Monmouth University poll was released this week in Virginia's 7th District. According to the survey (9/15-24; 400 VA-7 potential voters), Rep. Dave Brat (R-Glen Allen) lies in a flat tie with former CIA agent Abigail Spanberger (D) at 47-47% when likely voters are segmented. Under a Democratic surge turnout, Ms. Spanberger takes a 48-45% lead. But, when looking at all "potential voters", her margin increases to 47-42%.

Governor

Florida: Ever since his surprise victory in the August 28th Florida Democratic gubernatorial primary, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has held a small lead over resigned Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Palm Coast/Daytona Beach). The aforementioned University of North Florida poll (see Florida Senate above) sustains this pattern. They find Mayor Gillum topping Mr. DeSantis, 47-43%, which is wholly consistent with other public data.

Iowa: Businessman Fred Hubbell (D) has crafted a small lead against Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R), according to the Des Moines-based Selzer & Company polling firm. Their new Hawkeye State poll (9/17-20; 801 IA adults; 555 IA likely voters) sees Mr. Hubbell holding a slight 43-41% edge over the state's new Governor.

Michigan: Democratic gubernatorial nominee Gretchen Whitmer, a former state House Minority Leader, has held a commanding lead in the open Governor's race since the state's August 7th primary. Though she maintains a lead well beyond the margin of error in the latest poll completed earlier in the week, a new EPIC MRA survey for television station WOOD in Grand Rapids, Holland, and Kalamazoo (9/21-24; 600 MI likely voters), finds Ms. Whitmer's advantage trending away from double-digits. Still, she holds an eight-point lead over Attorney General Bill Schuette (R), 45-37%. Though his standing is stronger, Mr. Schuette must make up considerable ground in the waning days of this statewide campaign.

New Mexico: The aforementioned NSON Opinion Strategies poll (see New Mexico Senate above) sees an even tighter gubernatorial contest. In the statewide battle of two US House members, Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-Albuquerque) now holds just a 44-40% lead over Rep. Steve Pearce (R-Hobbs). The latest poll, from the Albuquerque Journal (9/7-13) had Ms. Grisham leading 50-43%. Five polls have been taken since the 1st of August, and all give her an average percentage of 48. This contrasts to Mr. Pearce's average of 42%.

South Dakota: The last Democratic Governor of South Dakota was Harvey Wollman, who left office at the beginning of 1979. A new poll, however, suggests that state Senate Minority Leader Billie Sutton (D-Burke) is not only competitive against US Rep. Kristi Noem (R-Castlewood) for the opportunity of succeeding term-limited Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R), but places him three points ahead. According to Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, polling for the Sutton Campaign (9/20-24; 500 SD likely voters), the Democratic nominee holds a 45-42% edge over Ms. Noem.