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Period Ending September 4, 2015

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

President

Donald Trump: Bowing to Republican Party pressure, particularly when it was affecting his ballot access in GOP primary states such as Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas, businessman Donald Trump agreed to sign the Republican National Committee pledge that he would not oppose the eventual GOP nominee in the general election as an Independent. Republican officials were well aware of the calamity it would cause their nominee should Trump be unsuccessful in the primaries and attempt to enter the general election campaign. Such action would almost assuredly have elected the Democratic nominee.

Polls: Four different polls were released of the Iowa Caucus electorate during the past week. All but one showed Donald Trump (R) and Hillary Clinton (D) with large leads over their respective field of opponents. The one outlier, Monmouth University’s late August survey (8/27-30; 405 IA previous primary voters) found Trump and Dr. Ben Carson tied at the top with 23%. Since no other confirming data is presently drawing such a conclusion, it is more likely than not that the Monmouth poll is an anomaly. Despite negative news coverage and continued talked that Vice President Joe Biden will enter the race, Ms. Clinton continues to run well among Democrats. At the worst, she hovers in the mid-40s while Sanders and Biden fight to approach 30% (Sanders) and 20% (Biden).

What is becoming clear for Republicans is that polling respondents are clearly gravitating to the candidates who have never held public office. Adding the Trump, Carson, and Carly Fiorina numbers, the trio consistently breaks majority support in virtually all surveys. Additionally, it is clear the Trump daily attacks on Jeb Bush are having an effect as the former Florida Governor continues to lose support. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, despite continuing to post strong across-the-board favorability ratios, is falling precipitously in the polls. The Trump vacuum effect has engulfed Walker, sending him consistently from the top tier of candidates down to the middle of the pack even though he has committed no significant political error.

Senate

Colorado: Arapahoe District Attorney George Brauchler (R), fresh from running the successful conviction of Aurora Theatre shooter James Holmes, confirms he is considering challenging Sen. Michael Bennet (D) next year. Colorado should be a top Republican target, but the party leadership has so far failed to recruit a strong candidate. Regardless of whether Brauchler moves forward with his prospective campaign, Sen. Bennet will command the favorite’s position. Wealthy businessman Robert Blaha (R), a former congressional candidate, says he will run if Sen. Bennet supports the Iran agreement in a vote later this month. He also says he will defer to Brauchler, should the District Attorney decide to enter the Republican field.

House

IL-11: Drawn as a Democratic seat, this district attracted several Republican candidates in 2014. State Sen. Diane Senger (R) eventually won the multi-candidate primary, but fell to incumbent Rep. Bill Foster (D), 47-53%. Now, DuPage County Board member Toni Khouri (R) announces that she is entering the 2016 contest. Mr. Foster should easily secure this district in the coming election considering the presidential turnout should significantly boost his total from the last election.

MN-2: Rep. John Kline (R), chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, announced that he will not seek re-election to the House next year. Mr. Kline, originally elected in 2002 on his third try for the office, is in his final term as a full committee chairman. Hailing from a swing southern Twin Cities suburban district, his potential retirement had been rumored for several weeks. This seat will be competitive in the general election. Expect heavy nomination competition from both parties.

NV-4: Rep. Cresent Hardy (R), who was a surprise winner last November in defeating first-term Rep. Steven Horsford (D) in the central Nevada district, just released information from his recent Moore Information political survey (8/16-17; 400 NV-4 registered voters). Hardy does not break even 40% in any configuration, but he leads all prospective Democratic candidates. He only tops former state Assemblywoman Lucy Flores (D) by a single percentage point (36-35%) but outdistances state Sen. Ruben Kihuen (D), who appears to be the party leadership candidate, by a ten point margin. This district is one of the strongest Democratic conversion opportunities in the country.

Governor

Louisiana: A new Market Research Insight poll (8/26; 600 LA registered voters) finds Sen. David Vitter (R) again leading the jungle primary field, but with a low level of support. The ballot test projects him with a 24-21-21-13% advantage over state Rep. John Bel Edwards (D), Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle (R), and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne (R). The true danger signal for Vitter may be that Angelle is now positioned to possibly steal second place from the field’s lone Democrat, Mr. Edwards. A Republican vs. Republican run-off election would be Vitter’s most difficult post-primary scenario. But regular pollster Triumph Campaigns (9/1-2; 1,019 LA registered voters) continues to produce consistent numbers. Their latest data finds Edwards in first place with a 31-30% margin over Vitter, with Angelle and Dardenne pulling 14 and 13%, respectively. Over the years, Vitter has run ahead of his polling in every election so it is quite possible that his actual standing is stronger than these figures currently indicate. The Louisiana gubernatorial primary is October 24th, with the run-off election following on November 21st.

Vermont: Two announcements for the open gubernatorial post occurred this week. Retired Wall Street executive Bruce Lisman formally stated he would seek the Republican nomination, while former state legislator and ex-gubernatorial candidate Matt Dunne confirmed he will again compete for the Democratic nomination. Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) is retiring.

Virginia: Though the next gubernatorial election is more than two years away, Attorney General Mark Herring (D) announced that he will run for re-election and not Governor in the 2017 statewide election. This clears the way for Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) to capture the Democratic nomination in hopes of succeeding term-limited Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D). Virginia is the only state in the Union that limits its chief executives to one term in office. Several Republicans, including former Republican National Committee chairman and 2014 Senatorial nominee Ed Gillespie, Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA-10), 2013 nominee Ken Cuccinelli, a two-point loser to McAuliffe, and state Sen. Mark Obenshain, who fell to Herring in the Attorney General’s contest by a razor-thin statewide margin, are mentioned as potential candidates.

Washington: Speculation is growing that Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA-8) may challenge Gov. Jay Inslee (D) next year. Reports are emanating from the state that Reichert is “seriously” considering jumping into the Governor’s race next year. Gov. Inslee records acceptable approval ratings and the presidential election year turnout would cut favorably for him, but Rep. Reichert would provide Republicans with a strong nominee to make the race highly competitive.

West Virginia: A new Global Strategy Group survey of the Mountaineer State electorate (8/21-26; 603 WV registered voters) finds wealthy Democratic businessman Jim Justice leading state Sen. President Bill Cole (R) 36-30% in early gubernatorial race polling. Further data, from an internal Prism Surveys study conducted for Democratic candidate Jeff Kessler, finds Justice only leading his primary opponent, 28-26%. Cole is thus far unopposed on the Republican side. This race is just beginning, so many changes will occur throughout the process. Mr. Kessler is the state Senate Minority leader and a former gubernatorial candidate. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.