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Weekly Political Update -- October 21, 2017

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President

The presidential campaign continues to trend in Hillary Clinton’s direction.  This week’s Donald Trump statements in the final debate alluding to a coming “rigged” election is once again bringing Republican leaders forward to publicly disagree with their own nominee.

Polling for the week finds nine national polls being released.  All but two see the former Secretary of State forging a lead, and the spread is generally wide.  Rasmussen Reports (10/18-20; 1,500 US likely voters), which has been the most consistently favorable Trump pollster, finds the Republican leading 43-41%.  Investors Business Daily/TPP (10/15-20; 789 US likely voters) sees a one-point Trump lead, 41-40%.

The other polls range from Clinton +9 (Bloomberg/Selzer; 10/14-17; 1,006 US likely voters) and +7 (Quinnipiac University; 10/17-18; 1,007 US likely voters) all the way down to Clinton +4 (YouGov/The Economist; 10/15-18; 1,032 US likely voters). 

With less than three full weeks to reach Election Day, Ms. Clinton routinely maintains a clear national popular vote lead.  The state surveys suggest that Mr. Trump could still close the gap in the key states of Florida and Nevada.  He is in a virtual tie in North Carolina (CNN/ORC; 48-47-4%; 10/10-15; 788 NC likely voters), but has pulled back into a lead or tie in Ohio (CNN/ORC; Trump 48-44-4-2%; 10/10-15; 744 OH likely voters).

Even if he rebounds to the point of winning all of the aforementioned swing regions, he still needs one more state, and no further entity appears within range of flipping to him.

Senate

The Senate picture continues to hover around the 50-50 mark.  Polling and race trends suggest that Democrats will gain at least three of the four seats they need to reach majority status.  Democratic challengers and/or open seat candidates in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana appear headed toward victory, though the Hoosier State is more competitive than in past days. 

According to one source, polling in another seat is tipping toward the Democrats after the Republican candidate held leads for most of the year, yet others see it differently.  In Nevada, the CNN/ORC poll (10/10-15; 698 NV likely voters) finds former Attorney General Christine Cortez Masto (D) pulling ahead of Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson), 52-45%, the largest lead either candidate has recorded in months.  On the other hand, CBS News/YouGov (10/12-14; 996 NV likely voters), using a tighter and larger polling sample, projects the two candidates tied at 39%.  Monmouth University (10/14-17; 413 NV likely voters), even when finding Clinton surging to a seven-point lead over Trump, simultaneously projects Republican Heck to a three point, 45-42% edge.

The Nevada, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire races remain the key toss-ups, and their outcome will likely determine the party that controls the majority in the next Congress.  The Missouri (Sen. Roy Blunt (R) vs. Jason Kander (D)) race is falling into the toss-up category while North Carolina (Sen. Richard Burr vs. Deborah Ross (D)) seems to be swinging back toward the Republican, at least according to the two latest surveys.  A notable swing toward one party or the other in the voter turnout model will likely determine the final outcome of each aforementioned statewide campaign.

House

Democrats continue to make the case that they have a chance to overcome the Republicans’ 59-seat House majority.  Their reasoning is that a sizable lead for Hillary Clinton will affect the turnout model, potentially demoralizing and suppressing the Republican vote.  While the strategy among Republicans will attempt to persuade tepid Clinton voters to balance their ballots for the House and Senate, Democrats are attacking with ads that criticize the Republican congressional nominee for not deserting and disavowing Trump.

The specific anti-Trump Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) ads are surfacing in at least two toss-up campaigns, TX-23 (Rep. Will Hurd (R) vs. former Rep. Pete Gallego (D)) and NV-4 (Rep. Cresent Hardy (R) vs. state Sen. Ruben Kihuen (D)).  The themed attack is also appearing in a metropolitan lean Republican seat, that of Minnesota Rep. Erik Paulsen who is fending off a challenge from state Sen. Terri Bonoff (D).  The latter race did release recent polling data from Survey USA (10/10-13; 579 MN-3 likely voters), however.  The results find Rep. Paulsen maintaining a strong 49-38% advantage despite Hillary Clinton leading in the 3rd District, 48-35%.  The polling sample is titled slightly Republican.

The DCCC also released one of their in-house polls, which tends to slant the survey samples toward their candidates.  The interactive voice response system (10/3; 535 MI-8 likely voters) shows central Michigan Rep. Mike Bishop (R-Rochester/Lansing) leading challenger Suzanne Shkreli, 47-41%.  Republicans have released later polls posting Bishop to larger leads, such as Public Opinion Strategies’ 49-31% split. 

Another district Democrats may convert is Minnesota’s open 2nd District, where seven-term incumbent John Kline (R) is retiring.  Here, the Survey USA data (10/10-13; 600 MN-2 likely voters) finds healthcare executive Angie Craig (D) forging a 46-41% advantage over conservative former radio talk show host Jason Lewis (R).  Democrats have been hitting Lewis hard over controversial comments he’s made during his radio career suggesting that Lewis is too conservative for the district.

In a normally safe Republican Pennsylvania seat, GBA Strategies (10/15-17; 400 PA-16 likely voters; conducted for the DCCC) finds challenger Christina Hartman (D) trailing state Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R) by only a 42-45% margin in the Lancaster area’s 16th District.  Though this district came within one point of supporting President Obama in 2012, it has been a reliably Republican seat since the end of World War II.  Retiring Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Kennett Square) has held the seat for 20 years.  His immediate predecessor, former Rep. Bob Walker (R-Lancaster) also represented the district for 20 consecutive years.

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