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Weekly Political Update -- August 26, 2016

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President

The presidential polling seems to be normalizing.  Donald Trump is now getting back into tighter range with Hillary Clinton.  Though she still leads in almost every poll, the margin is closer to an average of about 3.5 percentage points when calculating the seven surveys released this week.  At the depths of Trump’s post-convention period, Clinton’s lead was closer to nine points.

The one poll finding Trump ahead comes from the Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California.  Their latest track shows the Republican nominee building a national lead of 45-43%.  The LA Times/USC poll is different in that the administrators continually poll, asking 400 different people questions from a sampling pool of 3,000 registered voters.  Therefore, the entire respondent universe will participate in the tracking survey approximately once per week.  This type of polling is referred to as a “panel-back” study because the pollster tracks the same individuals throughout the electoral process, finding how a consistent group responds to the twists and turns of the political campaign.

A major conflict is coming from all-important Florida.  In arguably the presidential campaign’s most important swing state – the Republicans, for example, simply can’t win the national election without carrying Florida – diverse polling data is being currently reported.

St. Leo University, a 16,000+ student Catholic education institution located 35 miles northeast of Tampa, created their own Polling Institute in 2013.  This week, they released a Florida electorate poll (8/14-18; 1,500 FL adults; 1,380 FL likely voters) that finds Hillary Clinton expanding her support to 52% of the respondent sample as compared to only 38% for Trump.  Since the same polling cell gives Sen. Marco Rubio (R) his largest general election lead (46-38%) of any recorded survey, proving a Democratic skew is not likely, this study should be taken seriously.

On the heels of the St. Leo poll, another Sunshine State educational entity, Florida Atlantic University, released their data just a day later.  This survey (8/19-22; 1,200 FL likely voters) finds a diametrically opposite conclusion, yet the two are methodologically similar though St. Leo relies totally upon online responses.

According to Florida Atlantic, Trump actually rebounds in the state to the point of outpacing Ms. Clinton, 43-41%.  Rather stunningly, FAU does find a similar result as St. Leo in the Senate race.  While the latter posted Sen. Rubio to a 46-38% advantage, Florida Atlantic arrived at a similar 44-39% split in the Republican incumbent’s favor.  In support of the FAU poll, the Florida Chamber of Commerce released its own survey conducted during the same time period, and it also projects Mr. Trump to be holding a two-point edge. 

Senate

In addition to the St. Leo and Florida Atlantic data reported above about the Rubio-Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter) presumed Florida Senate race, Monmouth University released two Senate polls in other states.

In Missouri, the University’s survey (8/19-22; 401 MO likely voters) finds Sen. Roy Blunt (R) leading Secretary of State Jason Kander (D), 48-43%, a five-point spread.  The result falls exactly in the middle of the Blunt advantage range.  Four polls from a quartet of different research firms have conducted Missouri studies since July 10th, and the Senator leads in all from between three and seven percentage points.

Monmouth also tested the Ohio electorate and their data confirms what we have been seeing developing in this Senate race for the past couple of weeks.  That is, Sen. Rob Portman (R) pulling away from his Democratic challenger, former Gov. Ted Strickland.  Here, Monmouth went into the field during the 8/18-21 period, and surveyed 402 likely Ohio voters.  They find the Senator’s advantage over Strickland to be 48-40%.

House

No primaries occurred this week, but the late summer’s major nomination date of August 30th is fast approaching.  The day features the Florida primary, which will determine nominees in seven open seats from the state’s 27 congressional districts. 

Three incumbents face major primary challenges. Democrat Corrine Brown (D-Jacksonville), who has a severely re-drawn congressional seat that now expands to Tallahassee from Jacksonville instead of meandering to Orlando along with facing a federal indictment, is attempting to repel a challenge from former state legislative leader Al Lawson. 

Republican Dan Webster (R-Orlando) is running from an adjacent district to the one he now represents because his current seat was radically re-drawn in the court-ordered redistricting process.  Rep. Webster represents the 10th District that will now go Democratic, but he took advantage of an open Republican 11th CD of which he already represents 20% of the population.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Weston) faces a top Democratic primary opponent, law professor Tim Canova, who is armed with backing from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) and his remaining presidential campaign supporters.  The Congresswoman holds only a slight lead headed into Election Day.

Democrats will choose a nominee in South Florida for what will be a hotly contested race against freshman Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Miami).  Former Rep. Joe Garcia (D), whom Curbelo unseated in 2014, and businesswoman Annette Taddeo, a favorite of the Washington establishment, are vying for the nomination.

Arizonans also vote on 8/30.  Two key open districts will choose nominees: the sprawling and competitive 1st District, where Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff) is leaving the House to challenge Sen. John McCain (R), and Maricopa County’s safely Republican 5th District where Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Mesa) is retiring. 

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