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Weekly Political Update -- August 19, 2016

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President

Donald Trump (R), after engineering another campaign shake-up and demoting campaign manager Paul Manafort, is turning to give policy speeches. He addressed audiences in Miami, Florida; Youngstown, Ohio; and West Bend, Wisconsin this week, giving nationally covered economic, social, and foreign policy addresses. Obviously, the locations are all in top priority swing states.

Five pollsters released head-to-head ballot test surveys during the week. UPI/C-Voter, NBC/Survey Monkey, Morning Consult, Rasmussen Reports, and the Pew Charitable Trusts all reported data. Each shows Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump, but those that add minor party candidates Gary Johnson (L) and Jill Stein (G), or “others” to their respondent questionnaire, sees the margin between the two major party candidates tighten. 

Combined, the most recent polls yield an average 4.8% Clinton advantage over Trump on the multi-candidate ballot tests, down considerably from the past two weeks when Trump committed several unforced errors.

The more relevant polls are those that include the Libertarian and Green Party nominees because the minor party candidates will have a strong presence on ballots throughout the country. Mr. Johnson is on all 50 state ballots plus the District of Columbia. Dr. Stein has qualified in 28 states and DC, and has the chance to win placement in 16 others. Since the overwhelming majority of voters will have the opportunity to vote for Johnson and Stein, it is legitimate to put more emphasis on the polls that also contain their names.

Senate

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was easily re-nominated for a third full term earlier in the week. She defeated three minor Republican opponents with 72% of the vote. Facing Ray Metcalfe (D), a former state legislator, she will find little trouble securing another victory in the general election.

This race is quite different than her last re-election bid. Then, she was upset in the Republican primary by a Tea Party activist but returned in the general election as a write-in Independent. Considering the difficult logistics to win any write-in campaign, but particularly one as spread out and in such difficult terrain as Alaska, her 2010 victory was one of the most impressive of the past decade. Sen. Murkowski’s 2016 re-election bid will be considerably easier and certainly less dramatic than what she experienced six years ago.

A new Data Orbital survey (8/6-8; 500 AZ Republican likely primary voters) finds Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) pulling away from challenger Kelli Ward (R), a former GOP state Senator. The Data Orbital ballot test gives the veteran Senator a 50-29% advantage heading into the August 30 primary. Assuming he wins re-nomination, which appears highly likely, Sen. McCain will face Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-1) in what promises to become a competitive general election.

A new Monmouth University survey (8/13-16; 403 IN likely voters) finds former Sen. Evan Bayh (D) leading Rep. Todd Young (R-IN-9), 48-41%. Though well beyond the margin of polling error, the Bayh lead has significantly diminished since the first publicly released data (Garin Hart Yang Research; 7/12-14) that found the ex-Senator and Governor holding a 21 point margin, 54-33%.

House

The at-large Wyoming primary was held early this week, and Liz Cheney (R), the daughter of former Vice President, US Defense Secretary, and five-term Wyoming Congressman Dick Cheney (R), won the Republican congressional primary. She took 40% of the vote compared to her next closest competitor, state Sen. Leland Christensen’s (R) 22% in the nine-candidate pool.

Ms. Cheney advances to the general election where she will face the new Democratic nominee, energy contractor Ryan Greene (D). Her primary victory was tantamount to winning the open seat in the fall, however. Ms. Cheney will replace retiring four-term Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY-AL), who chose not to seek re-election.

The Alaska primary was also held, and Rep. Don Young (R-AK-AL) topped 71% of the vote on his way to winning re-nomination for a 24th term. He will face competition in the general election in the person of former Alaska Public Media CEO Steve Lindbeck (D), who has so far raised over $500,000 for the campaign. Rep. Young remains a solid favorite for re-election, however, projected to finish in the high 50s percentage range.

As expected, both Indiana Reps. Todd Rokita (R-IN-4) and Susan Brooks (R-IN-5) were reinstated as the Republican nominees in their respective congressional districts. Both withdrew from their federal campaigns in order to seek the open Governorship, once incumbent Mike Pence (R) accepted Donald Trump’s offer to join the national ticket as his Vice Presidential nominee. When the Republican State Committee chose Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb to succeed Pence as the statewide party nominee, it became clear that Rokita and Brooks would return to their congressional campaigns. The local congressional Republican committees officially took such action this week. Both are rated as prohibitive favorites for re-election.

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