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Weekly Political Update -- August 12, 2016

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President

A series of five polls released this week from Princeton Survey Research Associates International, Bloomberg/Selzer & Company, UPI/C-Voter, Ipsos/Reuters, and Rasmussen Reports find Donald Trump closing Hillary Clinton’s national popular vote lead despite his overload of negative publicity.  The average Clinton advantage margin from these five polls is 5.2%, down from last week’s 8.8% average split. 

This week, however, not all of the five pollsters included the minor party candidates for their ballot tests.  Trump typically performs one to two points better when Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein are included.

Evan McMullin, a former CIA operative and ex-chief policy director for the House Republican Conference, announced that he will attempt to qualify for the presidential ballot as an Independent.  Since the ballot access deadline has already passed in more than half the states, McMullin’s name placement challenge is formidable.  It is highly unlikely that Mr. McMullin will greatly impact the national campaign.

Numbers being released in key battleground states find Clinton opening up a significant lead in Pennsylvania, while the two are virtually tied in Florida, Ohio, and North Carolina, according to Susquehanna Polling & Research (PA), Quinnipiac University (FL, OH), and Public Policy Polling (NC).

Senate

Some of the poor Trump polling numbers are impacting certain Republican Senatorial candidates, but not uniformly so.

Several new polls find Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey (R) either leading or trailing by one to three points.  Thus, he and challenger Katie McGinty (D) are virtually tied. 

A new Remington Research poll for the Missouri Scout political blog found Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) topping Secretary of State Jason Kander (D) by a 47-40% clip.

The news wasn’t so good for first-term Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk (R).  His opponent, Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-8), is brandishing an early August survey that posts her to 44-37% advantage.

In Georgia, where last week brought Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) a poll that projected him as being vulnerable to Democrat Jim Barksdale, the incumbent’s political ship now appears righted.  JMC Analytics finds the Senator holding a 39-30% lead, but with many voters remaining undecided.

Finally, yet another Nevada poll finds the two open seat Senate candidates again in close proximity.  As has been the case for months, Republican Congressman Joe Heck (R-Henderson) maintains a small edge over former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D).  In the latest CBS News/YouGov survey (8/2-5; 993 NV likely general election voters), Heck clings to a 38-35% advantage.

House

Speaker Paul Ryan scored a landslide 84-16% Republican primary win over Wisconsin businessman Paul Nehlen, despite the latter spending almost $1 million on his campaign.  Nehlen appeared to be scoring some political points against the new House Speaker and nine-term congressional incumbent, but fell way short of even denting Mr. Ryan’s strong Republican political base.

Elsewhere in the Badger State, foreign policy analyst and former congressional aide Mike Gallagher easily secured the Republican nomination in the open Green Bay/Appleton district.  Mr. Gallagher will now face Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson in what could become a competitive general election campaign.

Republican voters in Minnesota’s 2nd District affirmed the results of the state party convention by nominating radio talk show host Jason Lewis to succeed retiring Rep. John Kline (R-Burnsville).  Mr. Lewis now faces a formidable political foe in the person of healthcare executive Angie Craig.  Though a first-time candidate, Ms. Craig has already amassed $2.5 million for her effort, almost $1 million of which is self-contributed.

The long post-election mail ballot counting period has finally concluded in the state of Washington, and state Rep. Barry Walkinshaw (D) has successfully clinched the second general election ballot position for the open 7th District race.  Under Washington election law, all candidates are on the same primary ballot and the top two advance to the general election irrespective of political party preference.  Mr. Walkinshaw edged King County Councilman Joe McDermott (D) who had been leading him from the August 2nd vote until the final days of mail-ballot counting changed the final outcome.  The first place finisher, by a 20-point margin, is state Sen. Pramila Jayapal (D).  Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Seattle) is retiring after serving 14 terms in the House.

Governor

The open Vermont Governor’s race is attracting attention.  This week, Democrats nominated former state Transportation Secretary Sue Minter to challenge Lt. Gov. Phil Scott (R).  Though Vermont is heavily Democratic, most political observers believe this contest will yield a relatively tight general election result.

The aforementioned Remington Research Missouri poll finds a virtual dead heat developing between newly nominated Chris Koster (D) and Eric Greitens (R).  The data finds Koster, the state’s Attorney General, with a scant two-point lead over retired Navy SEAL Greitens, 45-43%.

In West Virginia, Democratic nominee Jim Justice, a billionaire billed as the state’s richest man, enjoys a 47-37% margin over state Senate President Bill Cole (R) according to a new statewide poll.  The Global Strategy Group (8/1-3; 419 WV likely voters) conducted the survey for the Justice campaign.

Both Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) and West Virginia’s Earl Ray Tomblin (D) are ineligible to seek third terms in their respective states.  Vermont’s Peter Shumlin (D) is retiring.

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