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Weekly Political Update -- September 16, 2016

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Hillary Clinton’s health situation dominated the latest presidential campaign coverage, but polling taken before her weekend problems became public still shows a tightening of the national campaign. 

Six polls were completed since September 11th.  Three found Ms. Clinton leading, but by no more than two points (Quinnipiac University, YouGov/ Economist, Fox News).  One survey (Rasmussen Reports) shows Donald Trump up two, while a pair (CBS News/New York Times and Ipsos/Reuters) sees the race tied.  The Los Angeles Times/USC poll actually posts Trump up six points, but their panel-back methodology of surveying the same sampling group for the entire race is testing the campaign’s ebbs and flows and not looking for a ballot snapshot. 

Trump has also improved his standing in state polls, and now leads in Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Nevada, and the 2nd District of Maine.  The latter state splits its Electoral Votes, so a candidate can actually win a vote here even when losing the state.  If all data proved accurate and the election was today, Ms. Clinton would win a close 272-266 Electoral College victory.

Senate

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) was re-nominated with 79% of the vote in the New Hampshire Republican primary this week.  She defeated a former state Representative and three also-ran GOP candidates.  Gov. Maggie Hassan was unopposed on the Democratic side.  The New Hampshire campaign is a toss-up, and likely one of three Senate races – Pennsylvania and Nevada are the other two – that will decide which party controls the majority in the next Congress.

Republicans received good news from a series of NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist College polls.  Often seen as a poll that skews Democratic, the latest series points to better-than-expected Republican totals in four states: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and New Hampshire.

According to the media/college entity, Sen. John McCain (R) has opened up a 57-38% lead over Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff).  This is a surprising number in light of McCain only obtaining 52% of the Republican primary vote on August 30th.  The Kirkpatrick media blitz, attempting to tie him to Donald Trump, apparently hasn’t struck a chord with the Arizona electorate.

In Georgia, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) comes roaring back after a relatively close poll surfaced last month.  Isakson leads the current NBC/WSJ/Marist survey, 53-38%.  The Emerson College Polling Society projects the Senator to an even bigger 48-32% spread.

Turning to Nevada, the NBC/WSJ/Marist data finds Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) leading former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D), 47-45%, which is consistent with many other polls of this contest.  Public Policy Polling, however, releasing their survey results at the same time, projects Masto holding a one-point 42-41% edge.  Monmouth University also sees Heck holding a small lead.  Their ballot test margin is 46-43%.

The group’s most surprising poll is in New Hampshire.  After trailing in polls through much of August, Sen. Ayotte has now ballooned to an eight-point advantage, 52-44%, according to this most recent research study.  Since this poll is inconsistent with a plethora of other surveys released in July, August, and early September, it is possible that this particular survey may be an anomaly.

House

The last major primary date occurred during the week, and one incumbent almost paid the ultimate political price.  Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH-1; Manchester/Sea Coast) managed to win re-nomination over businessman Rich Ashooh, edging him by just 629 votes.  Guinta, scandal-tainted over a campaign finance violation involving a loan from his parents, had a difficult time recovering from the early bad publicity. 

He now faces former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D) for the fourth time in six years.  As an incumbent, she lost her re-election effort twice in four attempts.  Originally elected in 2006, Shea-Porter was defeated in 2010 (by Guinta), re-captured the seat in 2012 (beating Guinta), lost again in 2014 (again to Guinta), and now returns for what will likely be another close contest in a district that has defeated more incumbents than any since 2006.

Delaware Rep. John Carney (D-Wilmington) running for Governor leaves the state’s lone congressional seat open.  Former state Labor Secretary Lisa Blunt Rochester easily topped a state Senator and an ex-gubernatorial aide to capture the Democratic nomination, which is likely her ticket to Washington in November.  Delaware has become a reliably Democratic state. 

Governor

The New Hampshire congressional race was not the only close primary contest.  The Republicans’ open gubernatorial primary proved equally as tight.  Here, Executive Councilor Chris Sununu (R), son of former Governor and White House chief of staff John Sununu, topped self-funding state Rep. Frank Edelblut by just over 1,100 votes.  Mr. Sununu now faces fellow Executive Council member Colin Van Ostern who easily won his Democratic primary.  A tight general election is expected.  Incumbent Governor Maggie Hassan (D) is running for Senate.

In Delaware, the stage is set for Rep. John Carney (D) to succeed term-limited state chief executive Jack Markell (D).  Mr. Carney was unopposed in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.  Republican state Senator Colin Bonini easily won his party’s nomination, but Rep. Carney is now a heavy favorite to succeed Gov. Markell.

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