The Vice Presidential debate captured a large share of the week’s media attention, and Republican Mike Pence appears to have scored a virtual unanimous victory over Democrat Tim Kaine. Whether or not this will affect the presidential numbers remains to be seen.
Nine spot surveys were conducted during the period ending October 2-4, and Hillary Clinton’s aggregate national popular vote polling lead averaged 4.9 percentage points with a range of Clinton +9 (Fairleigh Dickinson University; 9/28-10/2; 385 likely voters) in a small-sample poll, to Trump +1 (Rasmussen Reports; 10/2-4; 1500 likely voters). The two continuous tracking polls, LA Times/ University of Southern California, and UPI/C-Voter, actually find Trump running ahead. LA Times/USC posts him to a 3.6% lead, while UPI projects a 2.5% Trump advantage.
Though more of the information suggests Trump continues to lag behind Clinton, the later polls show him again ticking up. Events and the last two debates could become defining as we enter the final 30 days.
The Campaign Legal Center, a liberal campaign finance watchdog group, filed a major Federal Election Commission complaint against the Hillary Clinton campaign. The charge alleges that the campaign and the outside Super PAC, Correct the Record, are illegally coordinating expenditures. The text also mentions that the Trump campaign is engaging in similar activities in their operation. It is unlikely that any action on this complaint will occur before the election, however.
The major Senate news comes not so much in terms of new polling data, but is rather about spending. Media buys are being cancelled and re-positioned, which tells us where the party strategists believe the races are headed.
In a surprising move, both the Republicans and Democrats cancelled their media buys for the Wisconsin Senate race. Democrats did so because they feel former Sen. Russ Feingold is secure enough in his battle against Sen. Ron Johnson (R) that they can better use the money elsewhere. On the heels of the Democratic move, Republicans cancelled their entire media buy for the state, saying they will continue only with their coordinated campaign expenditures. The move signifies that they, too, believe the race is decided and that Sen. Johnson will be defeated.
Democrats are also moving significant money out of Florida, thus verifying polling data that indicates Sen. Marco Rubio (R) is pulling away from Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter), and may be uncatchable. The same pattern is occurring in Arizona, where it appears that Sen. John McCain (R) is sufficiently pulling away from Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff). A couple of weeks ago, Democrats also pulled out of Ohio, where Sen. Rob Portman (R) appears to be cementing his re-election, thus saving millions for other races.
On the other hand, the Indiana race is tightening. When former Sen. Evan Bayh (D) decided to re-enter the 2016 Senate race after retiring in 2010, he jumped out to a 21 point polling lead. Now, according to a Public Opinion Strategies poll (10/3-5; 600 IN likely voters), the Bayh lead is down to only one point, 42-41%. Should Rep. Todd Young (R-Bloomington) be able to rebound and snatch a victory here, it will likely mean that Republicans will hold the Senate majority.
The states receiving the re-directed money from the aforementioned media re-positioning moves appear to be North Carolina and Missouri. The Tar Heel State is always close, and Sen. Richard Burr (R) is in a tough battle with former state Rep. Deborah Ross (D). In the Show Me State, the man who appears to be the Democratic leaderships’ favorite candidate, Secretary of State Jason Kander, continues to run close with Sen. Roy Blunt (R), but the incumbent continues to hold a consistent single-digit lead.
Both parties are pouring money into the three hottest races, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Nevada, and strategies in these states appear unchanged. It is well possible that the party winning two of these three states could well become the majority in the next Congress.
New polling is suggesting that ticket splitting may become more prevalent in 2016 than in previous 21st Century elections. In New York’s 24th District, Syracuse freshman Rep. John Katko (R) has opened up a 19 point lead over former congressional aide Colleen Deacon (D), according to a new Time Warner Cable/Siena College Polling Institute survey (9/22-24; 655 NY-24 likely voters). Rep. Katko holds a 53-34% advantage despite Donald Trump trailing Hillary Clinton by a dozen points and Sen. Chuck Schumer holding a huge 62-29% district margin in his re-election effort.
A series of polls find Iowa Rep. Rod Blum (R-Dubuque) leading his opponent, Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman Monica Vernon (D), by substantial margins. This, despite him representing the most Democratic of his state’s four congressional districts. Rep. Blum has consistently been considered one of the most endangered Republican incumbents, but the pre-election data consistently shows him winning re-election.
As the presidential race crystallizes in many places, expect congressional candidates in both parties to begin making the argument that people should not want to give Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump “all the power”. The argument that splitting power between the White House and Congress would be best for the country in that it will give an unpopular President – and, both would go into office with the highest negative ratings of any winner, ever – a check and balance over what will be controversial policy initiatives will be tested, and could gain legs.
Trouble continues to brew for veteran Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA-49). Two polls were released showing him trailing retired Marine Colonel Doug Applegate (D) who is running a very aggressive campaign. This San Diego County campaign will shortly come to the national forefront in the House campaign sector.
Trends are looking favorable for Democrats in the Missouri and North Carolina Governor’s races. Even a new Republican Remington Research poll (9/26-27; 1,279 MO likely voters) finds Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster (D) pulling substantially ahead over former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens (R). Their latest result gives Koster a strong 51-35% advantage and puts him in position to clinch the race. Greitens countered with his own late September poll yielding only a three-point lead for Koster, however.
In the Tar Heel State, Gov. Pat McCrory (R) continues to have trouble. The last five consecutive polls, stretching from mid-September to now early October, all give Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) a varying lead. The split runs from a range of Cooper +2 (the latest poll, from Quinnipiac University; 9/27-10/2; 507 NC likely voters) all the way to Cooper +9 (High Point University; 9/17-22; 404 NC likely voters). Gov. McCrory will quickly have to reverse this trend if he is to win a second term.
The Indiana Public Opinion Strategies poll mentioned above also shows a close Governor’s race. Democrat John Gregg maintains his lead, but it has dropped to 41-39% over appointed Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb according to the latest data.
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