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Weekly Political Update -- September 23, 2016

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President

The candidates are in final debate preparation mode, as the long-awaited 2016 general election issue exchange forums begin on Monday, September 26th.  Ratings estimates project more than 100 million viewers, numbers only reached by various Super Bowl games, will tune into the first session.  NBC News’ Lester Holt leads a team of four reporters hosting the Fox News debate.

The week’s national polling featured eleven polls, including daily trackers Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California, Morning Consult, and Rasmussen Reports.  Also included in the latest time group are spot pollsters Fox News, NBC/Survey Monkey, St. Leo University (FL), Ipsos/Reuters, and YouGov/The Economist, McClatchy/Marist University, AP-Gfk, and ICitizen. 

As a way to gauge the polling, Hillary Clinton averages a just under three-point lead from the eleven surveys, mostly because the ones reported at the end of the week tipped toward her with a greater margin.  Though it is methodologically incorrect to average disparate polls, particularly groups that include daily trackers with spot surveyors, the process does allow us to draw the reasonable conclusion that the national popular vote count is in toss-up range but leaning toward Ms. Clinton.

Senate

As the election draws closer, more and more Senate surveys are being released to help us handicap the individual races and how, together, they will allow one party to become the majority.

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) has re-assumed the lead over Gov. Maggie Hassan, 47-45% according to new data from New Jersey’s Monmouth University (9/17-20; 400 NH likely voters).  This favorable Republican result contrasts with the presidential question, which was much more positive for Hillary Clinton.  In the national race, Monmouth finds the former Secretary of State leading beyond the margin of polling error, 47-38-10-3%, with the latter numbers breaking for Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein.  

St. Leo University again surveyed their home state of Florida, one of the most critically important political states in the country.  Like in New Hampshire, this Florida poll (9/10-16; 1,103 FL adults; 1,005 FL likely voters) finds a Republican incumbent, Sen. Marco Rubio topping his Democratic opponent, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter), by a substantial 44-35% spread in this case, while the same polling sample yields a Hillary Clinton advantage of 49-44-6% over Trump and Libertarian Johnson. 

Two surveys came forth from Senate states that have not attracted a great deal of attention throughout the year.  The Louisiana Senate race, whose jungle primary runs concurrently with the general election, features a major tightening according to a new Southern Media & Opinion Research poll (9/15-17; 500 LA likely voters). 

Originally, state Treasurer John Kennedy (R) enjoyed a lock on first position.  Under the Louisiana system, the top two primary finishers will advance to a run-off on December 10th, assuming no one receives a majority vote.  This new survey still finds Mr. Kennedy tracking in the first run-off slot, but with only 17% of the sample preference, almost 20 points down from his original standing.  Rep. Charles Boustany (R-Lafayette) is second with 15%, followed by Caroline Fayard (11%), the former Democratic Lt. Governor candidate, and Public Service Commissioner and ex-Democratic statewide candidate Foster Campbell (9%).  Former Air Force officer and US Senate candidate Rob Maness (R) and ex-state Rep. and Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke (R) each share 3% support.

Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk (R) continues to trail his Democratic opponent, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Northern Chicago Suburbs) in another race where polls are few and far between.  According to the new Loras University data (9/13-16; 600 IL likely voters), Ms. Duckworth continues to register an average five-point lead, this time 41-36%.

House

The major House news concerns finalizing a nominee in the open Arizona 5th District.  After the official canvass and re-count concluded early in the week, state Senate President Andy Biggs won the Republican primary with just a 27-vote margin from more than 85,000 cast ballots.  Former Go.Daddy.com executive Christine Jones, who led on Election Night by 576 votes before absentee and provisional ballots were counted, conceded after the re-count process pushed Biggs’ small margin from nine to 27 votes.  She chose not to further challenge the results, and ended the campaign.  Sen. Biggs now becomes the prohibitive favorite to capture the safe Republican seat in November.

A new Dan Jones & Associates Utah poll is brining good news for freshman Rep. Mia Love (R-Saratoga Springs).  After defeating attorney Doug Owens (D) 51-45% in 2014, Love is now polling in much stronger position.  According to the Jones’ poll (9/12-19; 409 UT-4 likely voters), Rep. Love enjoys a major 53-35% advantage over Mr. Owens.

Governor

One Governor’s note to share: the New Hampshire Governor’s race between Executive Councilor Chris Sununu (R), son of former Governor and White House chief of staff John Sununu, and fellow Executive Council member Colin Van Ostern (D) was also included in the aforementioned Monmouth University poll.  The early general election numbers for this race break 49-43% in Mr. Sununu’s favor. 

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