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Period Ending September 4, 2020

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


Debates: Last October, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced the entire series schedule for both the presidential and vice-presidential forums and the details have only slightly changed. Because of the COVID crowd restrictions, the University of Notre Dame declined to host the first forum. It has been re-located to Case Western University in Cleveland and remains scheduled for Tuesday, September 29th. The lone Vice-Presidential debate then follows on Wednesday, October 7th at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. We return to the presidential debate series on Thursday, October 15th, tabbed for the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami that will feature a town hall format. The finale occurs a week later on October 22nd from Belmont University in Nashville.

Michigan: The new Trafalgar Group poll was released for the battleground state of Michigan (8/14-23; 1,048 MI likely voters) and, has often been the case, this research firm finds a result opposite that of most other pollsters. According to the Trafalgar results, President Trump holds a 47-45% Wolverine State lead over Joe Biden. In 2016, Trafalgar came to national prominence because they were the only firm to correctly predict a Donald Trump victory in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

The reason for the discrepancy is Trafalgar attempts to account for what is now being termed as the "shy Trump voter," that is, a person who is voting for the President but will not say so publicly or to a pollster. Most people believe there is an under-poll for Trump, and Trafalgar is attempting, as they successfully did in 2016, to determine that number.

North Carolina: The Tar Heel State continues to present diverse presidential numbers. The Fox News Poll (8/29-9/1; 722 NC likely voters) finds Joe Biden leading President Trump, 50-46%, while East Carolina University (8/29-30; 1,101 NC likely voters) projects a 49-47% Trump edge. The result diversity is another indication that the North Carolina presidential race is a toss-up. Both the presidential and corresponding US Senate race, however, should be considered within the polling margin of error.


Alaska: Public Policy Polling, without using the push questions they often employ report a 43-43% tie between first-term Sen. Dan Sullivan (R) and Anchorage surgeon Al Gross (I/D) from their just-released survey (8/27-28; 638 AK voters). This is a typical reading in an Alaska race, the electorate from which typically polls close. At this time in Mr. Sullivan's 2014 race, he trailed then-Sen. Mark Begich (D) by 41-36% (Hays Research for the AFL-CIO) and 45-40% (Harstad Strategic Research) between September 7-14, only to rebound to score a 48-46% win to unseat the Democratic incumbent.

Massachusetts: As predicted in late polling, incumbent Sen. Ed Markey defeated Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Newton) on Tuesday night to win the Democratic US Senate nomination, a victory that realistically assures him of another six-year term. He scored a 55.4-44.6% margin that translated into a vote spread of just under 149,000 with only a few ballots outstanding. It was a solid victory for the 48-year Massachusetts political veteran, and a first-time defeat for a member of the Kennedy family in 27 Bay State Democratic primaries.

Michigan: The Trafalgar Group's Michigan poll, as described above in the presidential section, also tested the Senate race between first-term Senator Gary Peters (D) and Republican manufacturing company owner John James. This race was polling close before the COVID shutdown but went clearly in Sen. Peters' direction afterward. We now see the campaign tightening again, and Trafalgar, once more using the sample methodology discussed above, projects Mr. James to a one-point, 48-47%, edge.

Three other pollsters testing the Senate race during the same time as Trafalgar, Change Research, Redfield & Wilton Strategies, and Public Policy Polling, see a different result, however. Change finds Sen. Peters up 50-45%, while Redfield & Wilton posts the incumbent to a larger 48-39% advantage. PPP this time found an unusual pattern. While they show Sen. Peters leading Mr. James, 47-39%, the same sample favors Joe Biden over President Trump by just a 48-44% split.

Minnesota: According to a new Harper Polling survey (8/30-9/1; 501 MN likely voters via live interview), former US Rep. Jason Lewis (R) has pulled almost even with Sen. Tina Smith (D). The HP survey finds Sen. Smith's lead falling to 43-41%. Her stance on the police has much to do with Mr. Lewis becoming highly competitive. Earlier, the Senator stated that "we need to reimagine the police," and that something is "dangerously wrong with the role police plays in society." By a margin of 48-28%, the poll respondents stated they were less likely to vote for Sen. Smith because of her law enforcement position.

New Hampshire: The New Hampshire state primary, one of America's last as compared to their first-in-the-nation status for the presidential primary, will be held Tuesday. A new University of New Hampshire survey (8/28-9/1; 1,949 Granite State panel members; 703 likely Republican primary voters; online) suggests that businessman Corky Messner (R), who has self-funded his campaign with a series of personal loans totaling more than $3.8 million, leads retired Army General Don Bolduc (R), 52-31%. If these numbers hold, Mr. Messner will advance into a shortened general election campaign as the underdog against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) who seeks a third term.

North Carolina: As is seemingly typical in North Carolina campaign years, polling in the Tar Heel State again appears inconsistent. Once more, we see two survey research entities simultaneously in the field arriving at much different results. Fox News released their latest NC study (8/29-9/1; 722 NC likely voters) that projects Democratic nominee Cal Cunningham leading Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, 48-42%. Conversely, East Carolina University, also polling during the same period (8/29-30; 1,101 NC likely voters), forecasts a 44-44% tie in the Senate race.


FL-16: The first published poll for the Rep. Vern Buchanan-state Rep. Margaret Good (D) campaign has been released, and it brings favorable news for the Sarasota area's seven-term US House incumbent. According to the Data Targeting firm, Rep. Buchanan has established a 51-35% lead over Ms. Good.

The results find Mr. Buchanan's 51% support figure running ahead of President Trump's 47% and is three points better than the Republican generic figure. Ms. Good reports raising almost $1.8 million for her effort and held over $1 million in her campaign account at the July 29th pre-primary campaign finance reporting deadline.

Massachusetts: In the House races, Rep. Richard Neal (D-Springfield) came through against Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse for a 59-41% win in the western 1st District, while in Boston, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-South Boston) ran past physician Robbie Goldstein with a 66-34% victory margin. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Salem) in the 6th District was the only other House incumbent who drew primary opposition and won with 77% of the vote.

After trailing most of the night in the open 4th District, Newton City Councilman Jake Auchincloss has taken a lead in the tight Democratic primary campaign to replace Rep. Joe Kennedy III that could translate into an ultimate victory. Now with 96% of precincts counted, and an undetermined number of absentee ballots remaining, Mr. Auchincloss holds a 1,430 vote lead over former Brookline Selectwoman Jesse Mermell.

Mr. Auchincloss is an Afghan War veteran who has come under fire from Democrats for previously being a Republican and taking some past conservative positions. He is clearly in the best position to win after trailing for most of election night, however. The ending Tuesday night count found Ms. Mermell leading by just 105 votes. Over 146,000 votes have been tabulated. The projected final turnout was approximately 150,000, so there are likely a few thousand outstanding votes. If the uncounted total is only 4,000 or so, it would be very difficult for Ms. Mermell to overturn the four-digit lead since the vote would be divided among all nine individuals listed on the ballot.

MT-AL: A new survey from Democratic polling firm Expedition Strategies (8/22-27; 400 MT likely voters via live land line or cell phone interview) finds Democratic open seat candidate Kathleen Williams, a former state Representative, taking a small 49-47% lead over State Auditor Matt Rosendale (R), after the latter man had opened a lead as large as six points in an early August poll (WPA Intelligence; 8/9-11; 500 MT likely voters: 51-45% Rosendale). With leaners added for both candidates, the Expedition point spread advances to 51-48% in Ms. Williams' favor.

The fact that President Trump leads in this same poll only 48-44% suggests at least a slight Democratic skew since Montana will likely be a top five state for the President, especially when recalling he recorded a 20 point 56-36% margin here in 2016.

NY-24: The Syracuse anchored congressional district was the site of a close campaign in 2018 between Rep. John Katko (R-Syracuse) and college professor Dana Balter (D) that ended in a 52-46% victory for the GOP incumbent. This year, Ms. Balter returns hoping to take advantage of former Vice President Joe Biden likely carrying this district.

Two polls have been recently released that tell a different story of how the re-match campaign is unfolding. The Katko campaign released their Public Opinion Strategies survey (8/12-15; 400 NY-24 likely voters) that gave the Congressman a healthy 51-40% advantage. The GBAO firm for the Balter campaign (8/23-25; 500 NY-24 likely voters) yields Ms. Balter a 48-46% edge, quite different from the Katko numbers. Though Hillary Clinton carried this CD by only four percentage points in 2016, Joe Biden leads President Trump, according to the GBAO data, 52-40%.

WA-10: A just-released Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research poll (8/24-28; 400 WA-10 likely general election voters) finds former Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland (D) posting a strong 43-22% first ballot test lead over state Rep. Beth Doglio (D-Olympia). The two are competing in a double-Democrat general election for the open seat that four-term Rep. Denny Heck (D-Olympia) is vacating to run for Lt. Governor.


Missouri: The Trafalgar Group tested the Show Me State Governor's race (8/26-28; 1,015, MO likely voters) and found non-elected incumbent Mike Parson (R) leading State Auditor Nicole Galloway, 51-36%, which is somewhat different than at least one other pollster is projecting. The only other August poll of this race, from Remington Research for the Missouri Scout, found Mr. Parson's lead to be seven points, 50-43%. Mr. Parson ascended to the Governorship with elected Governor Eric Greitens resigned because of a sex scandal.

Utah: Rumors had been swirling around Utah politics that former Gov. Jon Huntsman, who lost this year's Republican primary to Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox on a 36-35% split, would mount a write-in campaign in the general election. This week, Mr. Huntsman disavowed that he would do so, making it clear that Mr. Cox will succeed retiring Gov. Gary Herbert (R) in the Fall.

Virginia: Reports emanating from local Virginia press sources regarding Attorney General Mark Herring's (D) future political plans suggest that the two-term AG is more likely to seek re-election to a third term rather than making the move into the 2021 Governor's campaign. It is becoming clearer that former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) intends to return to launch a gubernatorial campaign next year, which will once again squeeze out Mr. Herring. In 2017, the Attorney General stepped aside for then Lt. Governor Ralph Northam (D) to run for the state's top job.

Virginia is the only state in the country that limits its Governors to one term, but individuals can run for multiple non-consecutive terms.