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Weekly Political Update -- September 2, 2016

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President

The presidential polling is delivering more of the same.  Six more national polls were released since on or just before August 31st, and Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump in four of them.  Her average margin continues to tighten, and now is just over two points, at 2.2 if each poll is rated equally, with a swing of Clinton +7 (USA Today/Suffolk University) all the way to Trump +2.6 (LA Times/USC).

The one poll consistently finding Trump ahead comes from the Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California.  As previously mentioned, this survey is different in that it continually polls asking 400 different people questions from a sampling pool of the same 3,000 registered voters.  Therefore, the entire respondent universe will participate in the panel back tracking poll approximately once per week and allows the pollsters to track the ebbs and flows of the same group over a long period of time. 

Senate

The late summer’s most significant primary occurred this week, with major results coming from Arizona and Florida.

Sen. John McCain (R), seeking a sixth term, was re-nominated but scored only 52% among his own Republican Party voters.  Though he put 13 points between he and his top challenger, former state Sen. Kelli Ward, a full 48% of voting Republicans chose another candidate.  Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff) was unopposed on the Democratic side.  McCain landing only in the low 50s for this primary suggests that the general election could become highly competitive.  A Public Policy Polling survey taken just before the primary (8/26-27; 837 AZ likely voters) but released just after finds the two candidates tied at 43%, apiece.

Turning to Florida, Sen. Marco Rubio (R), coming back to the Senate race from his failed presidential run, recorded 72% in winning re-nomination.  Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter) claimed his party’s nomination with 59% against fellow Rep. Alan Grayson’s (D-Orlando) 19%.  Though Rep. Murphy will be a strong opponent to Sen. Rubio, the incumbent appears to be gaining steady momentum and has to be considered the favorite as the general election begins.

House

The big primary news this week is twelve-term Rep. Corrine Brown’s (D-Jacksonville) defeat in the new 5th District that now stretches from Jacksonville to Tallahassee.  Previously, the district moved south from J’ville through Gainesville and Sanford to Orlando.  Former state legislator and two-time congressional candidate Al Lawson scored a 48-39% victory over Brown, badly beating her in the new portion of the district, including Tallahassee.  Rep. Brown easily topped the vote in Jacksonville and her previous territory. 

Mr. Lawson will now move to the general election where he will win a landslide November victory in the safely Democratic district.  Ms. Brown becomes the fifth House incumbent to lose re-nomination, the third due to mid-decade redistricting.  She is also facing a federal indictment for alleged non-profit organization financial dealings, which obviously became an issue in this campaign.

In South Florida, the primary attracting the most national political attention featured Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Weston) and law professor Tim Canova.  Both spent over $3 million on the race that also involved a public division between the party’s two presidential candidates.  Ms. Wasserman Schultz, who unceremoniously lost her position as Democratic National Committee chair largely over accusations of bias favoring Hillary Clinton, scored a 57-43% victory over Canova who Bernie Sanders actively supported.  The Congresswoman is now safe for the general election.  Despite the media attention, Democratic primary turnout was low with just over 50,000 people participating.

Rep. Dan Webster (R-Orlando), who found himself a major victim of the mid-decade redistricting plan as his Republican-leaning 10th District was turned safely Democratic, found a new home in the adjacent open 11th District.  Rep. Webster recorded 60% of the primary vote and is now heavily favored in the general election.  Former Orlando Police chief Val Demings won the Democratic primary in the new 10th CD, and will come to Washington with an expected easy general election victory.

In Rep. Murphy’s vacated 18th District, disabled Afghan War veteran Brian Mast won a crowded Republican primary and will now face businessman Randy Perkins (D) in the competitive general election.  Despite Mr. Murphy twice winning the district, the seat tilts Republican.  Mr. Mast’s compelling story could provide the boost the Republicans need to put this seat back into their column.

Former Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Miami) scored a close 51-49% Democratic primary victory over party establishment favorite Annette Taddeo.  He will now face freshman Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Miami) in a re-match of the 2014 race that saw Garcia unseated.  Redistricting made this seat more Democratic, so the general election promises to be hard fought with a tight conclusion.

Other Florida open seat primary winners who are heavy general election favorites are state Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL-1; succeeding retiring Rep. Jeff Miller-R), Dr. Neal Dunn (R-FL-2; replacing retiring Rep. Gwen Graham-D), former Duval County Sheriff John Rutherford (R-FL-4; succeeding retiring Rep. Ander Crenshaw-R), state Sen. Darren Soto (D-FL-9; replacing Rep. Alan Grayson-D who unsuccessfully ran for Senate), and former US Ambassador Francis Rooney (R-FL-19; who will follow retiring Rep. Curt Clawson-R).

Florida incumbents winning re-nomination against minor primary opponents were: Reps. Ron DeSantis (R-Daytona), John Mica (R-Winter Park), David Jolly (R-Pinellas County), Frederica Wilson (D-Miami Gardens), and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami). 

The two open Arizona seats appear to have produced general election nominees.  In Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick’s expansive 1st District, controversial Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu won the Republican primary with 31% of the vote.  He will face former state Senator Tom O’Halleran, an ex-Republican, in what is one of the few truly political marginal districts remaining in the country.  The general election will be rated as a toss-up but the controversial Babeu may carry enough negatives that Mr. O’Halleran becomes a slight favorite to hold the district for the Democrats.  Ms. Kirkpatrick advances to the statewide Senate general election against John McCain.

Retiring Rep. Matt Salmon’s (R-Mesa) 5th District appears headed to former GoDaddy.com executive Christine Jones, as she leads the Republican primary with only a 578-vote spread.  Her margin, though small, should be enough to withstand any uncounted absentee or provisional votes that may remain.  Ms. Jones likely defeated state Senate President Andy Biggs, former Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley, and state Rep. Justin Olsen in a race that divided 30-29-22-20% among the four contenders.  The 5th is safely Republican, and Ms. Jones is likely the region’s new Congresswoman. 

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