Post-March 15; Rep. Miller to Retire

March 14, 2016 — With Donald Trump having a seemingly secure lead in the Florida Winner-Take-All primary but possibly in danger of losing the Ohio WTA, the next most important contest is the Arizona Winner-Take-All (58 delegates) primary scheduled for March 22nd.

A new Arizona Republic/MBQF Consulting Poll (March 8; 751 likely Arizona Republican primary voters through automated response device) finds Trump leading the three remaining candidates, 37-23-15-12 percent. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is second in the tally, followed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

The results are not surprising in that Arizona is at the forefront of the immigration issue, and a state whose populous, according to previous survey research and vote history, generally favors construction of the border wall that Trump has been championing throughout the campaign.

After the definitive March 15 contests, Arizona would then brandish the largest block of delegates available in a Winner-Take-All format. Even if Trump is successful in both Florida and Ohio, and takes a strong share of delegates from the other March 15 states (North Carolina, Illinois, and Missouri), his quest for a first ballot victory is still narrow. Therefore, in addition to Florida and Ohio, Arizona, too, becomes a must win state for his campaign.

Arizona

House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman Jeff Miller (R-Chumuckla), who bills himself as the first member of Congress sworn into office after the 911 disaster in 2001 –- he won an October special election after then-Rep. Joe Scarborough (R) resigned –- announced he will not seek another term this November.

Miller’s decision is not particularly surprising. For a time he seriously considered entering the US Senate race, and this year concludes his allotted time as the VA committee chairman.

Miller’s retirement decision is clearly not motivated by the new Florida redistricting plan. In fact, Rep. Miller’s 1st District, occupying the far western corner of the state’s northern panhandle, was one of four districts the court-ordered mid-decade redistricting map left completely in tact.

FL-1, stretches from the Alabama border along Interstate 10 and captures the Gulf of Mexico waterfront region from Pensacola to Rosemary Beach. The seat, after being in Democratic hands for 30 years before the 1994 Republican landslide, is now a safe GOP district.

The 1st District constituency strongly supported the Republican presidential nominee with margins of 67 and 68 percent, respectively, during the last two national election cycles. During his 15-plus year congressional career, Miller averaged just over 72 percent in his seven re-election campaigns.

It is too early to speculate on who may run for the open seat, but several GOP candidates will step forward before the May 6 candidate filing deadline prior to the Aug. 30 primary.

Miller not seeking re-election means there will be 43 open House seats (28R-15D) in the 2016 cycle, making this the third election in a row that will feature an above average pool of incumbent-less campaigns. We now have witnessed 142 House members voluntarily leaving office during the last three elections.

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