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Under the Dome – February 03, 2016

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Associated General Contractors

Legislative Update

February 03, 2016

The Advocate is a bimonthly publication for AGC PAC contributors, and contains the latest political news from “inside the beltway.”

Here is the latest news:

  • Paul Suspends Campaign
  • Cruz, a Tie, Rubio the Surprise
  • Floor Fight! The Contested Convention
  • Bloomberg at 29%
  • House Retirements
  • Political Snippets from across the Country
    • US Senate Races
    • US House of Representatives Races
    • Gubernatorial Races

Paul Suspends Campaign

Kentucky US Sen. Rand Paul suspended his presidential campaign this morning following a disappointing finish in the Iowa Caucuses. Paul placed fifth garnering just 4.5% of the vote behind US Sen. Ted Cruz (27.7%), Donald Trump (24.3%), US Sen. Marco Rubio (23.1%), and Dr. Ben Carson (9.3%). Despite a continued effort to not only preserve, but to expand his father’s coalition, Paul received less caucus votes than former US Rep. Ron Paul did in 2008 (10%) and 2012 (21%).

As the candidates turn their attention to New Hampshire which holds its primary on Tuesday, Paul faced the possibility of an even more disappointing finish. Currently, the RealClearPolitics Average of the most recent state polls has him in ninth place with 2.8%, besting only former Governor Mike Huckabee (who suspended his campaign) and former US Sen. Rick Santorum.

Simply put, having Trump as a loud, anti-establishment outsider in the race and national security issues be front-and-center on the nightly news proved to be major factors the Paul campaign failed to overcome.

Paul will now head home to prepare for his 2016 Senate re-election. Without a top-tier Democratic candidate in the race, he is expected to easily win this November.


Cruz; A Tie; Rubio the Surprise

The Iowa Caucuses ended in a bit of a surprise. Despite the last 10 public Republican contest polls all finding Donald Trump leading the Iowa vote anywhere from one to eight points, it is Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) who claimed first placeMonday night with 28% preference. Mr. Trump finished a close second with 24%, followed by Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) stronger than expected 23%.

It is the latter number that few saw coming. Sen. Rubio had been consistently scoring a third place finish in most polls, but a distant one. Of the final 10 Iowa polls from nine different pollsters, cumulatively conducted during the January 18-31 period, only two: the Emerson College Polling Society and Opinion Savvy forecast Rubio in as formidable a third position as actually occurred.

The Democratic side turned out equally interesting. In their much different system where voters’ choices translate into state delegates for each candidate, it is former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders ending in a virtual tie. According to the latest available number, the two split the delegate pool almost evenly, with Ms. Clinton leading by only four delegates from a pool exceeding 1,300.

Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, who scored just eight delegates but a number large enough to make the difference between Clinton and Sanders, suspended his campaign in response to the polling results. The same is true for ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on the GOP side. Huckabee, the 2008 Iowa Caucus winner, finished ninth among Republicans with just 2% voter support.

The Republican turnout is the largest in Iowa Caucus history. When all of the votes are tabulated, the participation factor will top 185,000, far more than the previous record of 121,255 established in 2012. The Democratic system does not report the actual number of raw votes per candidate, instead using only the candidates’ delegate totals.

The Caucus result proved close to what was projected a month ago, meaning Sen. Cruz took the state because the system was tailor-made for his strong grassroots campaign style. Expectations for Trump rose during the latter part of January, largely attributable to virtually every public poll suggesting he would finish first.

The fact that no candidate even reached 30%, let alone the 50% needed to capture the majority of delegates, suggests that yielding a contested Republican convention is certainly a possibility on the political horizon. Now having three candidates with similar strength is another element that potentially makes an eventual deadlock more likely.

Donald Trump, rebounding to finish first in New Hampshire coupled with a strong showing from a candidate such as Ohio Gov. John Kasich would further cloud the overall political picture. Such a result would make reaching a majority even more difficult for any of the contenders.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s poor 3% performance will increase speculation about him exiting the race. He will likely fare better in New Hampshire than Iowa, but probably won’t break into double-digits. Though he is well funded, and at least one estimate suggests he spent more than $3,000 for every vote he received Mondaynight, such a small base of support simply can’t sustain a national campaign for much beyond the February voting states of New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada.

The Iowa Caucus met expectations for excitement with two close finishes. The Republican delegate allotment for Iowa is only 30. This means Sen. Cruz scored just one more delegate vote than Trump and Rubio. Ms. Clinton amassed 23 delegates to Bernie Sanders’ 21.

Next comes New Hampshire on February 9.


Floor Fight! The Contested Convention

The Republicans

The Iowa Republican precinct caucuses ended in a virtual three-way tie, with no candidate receiving even 30% of the vote. For the first time since 1940, Republicans have a realistic chance of deciding their nomination contest through a deadlocked convention – an eventuality many GOP leaders hope to avoid. The large number of Republican candidates and the relatively few number of Winner-Take-All entities (10), creates a situation where it becomes very difficult for any contender to reach 50% through the primaries and caucuses.

Therefore, the climate is potentially ripe for a return to a multiple roll call convention, and one where the identity of the eventual nominee could be very much in doubt even through the final call of delegates. What we know is that the winner must secure 1,237 votes on the floor of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland sometime after July 18. The convention will not end until someone attains that plateau.

While there was much talk about whether Donald Trump or Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) would “win” the Iowa Caucuses Monday evening, GOP and Iowa rules dictate that there is to be no convincing winner, regardless of the outcome. Iowa is one of 14 Zero-Percent threshold states, meaning there is no vote qualification to award delegates.

Since the Hawkeye State only possesses 30 GOP delegates, even a 40% “win” would have provided the first-place finisher with approximately 12 delegates. In fact, there are only 133 aggregate delegates available in the February voting states: Iowa (2/1), New Hampshire (2/9), South Carolina (2/20), and Nevada (2/23). Since these places obviously vote before March 15, by Republican National Committee rule, the delegates must be assigned proportionately.

Probable Iowa Republican Delegate Count:  30; 0% Delegate Threshold

Projected Delegate Apportionment

Ted Cruz: 8
Donald Trump: 7
Marco Rubio: 7
Others: 7

Next up is New Hampshire with 23 delegates. There is a 10% vote threshold which means candidates must receive this percentage to earn any delegates.

Scenario: Three things are key to look for in New Hampshire. 1) Can Donald Trump hold his base and win the state as expected, or will he underperform the polls?  2) Does Marco Rubio build on his Iowa momentum and firmly establish himself as the mainstream alternative to Cruz or Trump by once again over-performing the polls?  And, 3) does one of the remaining viable contenders – most likely Chris Christie orJohn Kasich – get a lift from a strong NH showing?  Since Cruz has worked to lower expectations about his position in NH, the outcome could easily see the emergence of a strong three or possibly four candidate field, with no clear run-away leader. And that points to a contested convention.

The Democrats

There is little chance the Democrats will enter a brokered convention. With only two main candidates, and 1,204 “Super Delegates” – the nickname given for the PLEO delegates (Party Leader – Elected Official) – who are free agents throughout the voting process, the chances of not crowning a nominee through the primary and caucus procedure is almost nil despite Democratic National Committee rules that prohibit Winner-Take-All delegate apportionment.

Though Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) is making a run at former Secretary of StateHillary Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire, his first-tier candidate status is likely short-lived. Once the campaign turns south beginning on February 27 (South Carolina), and then onto Super Tuesday on March 1, Ms. Clinton will be in position to effectively clinch the nomination.

The aggregate delegate total in Iowa and New Hampshire is 84, meaning that if Sanders had taken Iowa and then goes on to win New Hampshire, he will only have gained in the 50-55 delegate vote range. Adding South Carolina to Super Tuesday, 1,076 Democratic delegates will be apportioned through the early voting process. Considering Hillary Clinton’s dominance in the south, it would not be surprising to see her approaching 700 committed delegates while Sanders will have fewer than 500 as March 2 dawns. The uncommitted Super Delegates, largely in Clinton’s camp, would then provide what will prove to be an insurmountable lead for the Democratic nomination.


Bloomberg at 29%

Hidden within the hubbub about whether or not Donald Trump would attend the Fox News debate last week, and perched on the cusp of the long-awaited Iowa Caucus voting that took place Monday, we find a Luntz Global poll that projects former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) scoring as high as 29% in a hypothetical race against Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D). He posts 28% if the Republican nominee were Florida Sen. Marco Rubio or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Pollster Frank Luntz makes the argument that Bloomberg has an actual path to national victory and uses Ross Perot’s 1992 independent candidacy to support his analysis. He quotes period surveys that found Perot beginning his first presidential quest with low single-digit voter preference, rising as high as 39% in the polls, and ending with 19% of the popular vote.

Luntz believes Bloomberg has the potential to do much better particularly when his data finds the Independent already approaching 30%, approximately 10 times better than Perot’s beginning point.

What Luntz fails to consider, however, is the Electoral Vote count and what his potential candidacy could do to realistically change the overall outcome.

While Perot scored a more than respectable 19% back in 1992, he recorded no Electoral Votes because he failed to win even one state. Should Bloomberg run, and win a small number of states in tight three-way splits, his EV total would not elect him President. Rather, it would likely cast the contest into the House of Representatives, which has the power to choose the presidential winner should no candidate attain a majority in the Electoral College. Considering the Republican dominance in the House, such an ending would almost assuredly favor the GOP candidate.

The Luntz poll provides us an additional interesting glimpse. Most Independent candidacies in the past, and certainly was the case with Perot’s bids in 1992 and 1996, tended to benefit the Democratic candidate because the Republican nominee bled support into the Independent column. This time, however, it appears the GOP candidate would get a boost because Bloomberg appears to be taking more support from Hillary Clinton.

In the three proposed ballot tests, Trump and Rubio score close wins against Clinton, while the former secretary of state and first lady would top Sen. Cruz in an equally close spread. Trump would lead Clinton and Bloomberg, 37-33-29%, in the national popular vote, while Rubio would score a 38-35-28% victory. In the final scenario, Ms. Clinton defeats Sen. Cruz and Mr. Bloomberg, 37-35-28%, respectively. Bloomberg’s presence also holds both major party nominees below 40% in all three scenarios, at least according to this earliest of polls testing a major three-way campaign.

As we noted earlier this week, the former New York mayor would have plenty in the way of campaign financing, thereby ensuring he would have the wherewithal to tell his story. In his favor would be distrust of both the status quo and the major political parties. Against him are his extreme positions on gun control and enacting government dictates over personal life style.

Though talk will continue about a Bloomberg independent presidential run, it likely won’t happen. But, if he were to enter, Mr. Luntz has provided an early peek into how the electorate and the eventual presidential campaign outcome could be affected.


House Retirements

As congressional re-election efforts ramp up, 42 members have already announced that they will not be defending their seats in 2016. Here’s an overview listing those members who are retiring or seeking other office.

AZ-1 Ann Kirkpatrick (D) – Running for Senate
CA-20 Sam Farr (D) – Retiring
CA-24 Lois Capps (D) – Retiring
CA-44 Janice Hahn (D) – Running for other office
CA-46 Loretta Sanchez (D) – Running for Senate
DE-At Large John Carney (D) – Running for other office
FL-6 Ron DeSantis (R) – Running for Senate
FL-9 Alan Grayson (D) – Running for Senate
FL-11 Rich Nugent (R) – Retiring
FL-13 David Jolly (R) – Running for Senate
FL-18 Patrick Murphy (D) – Running for Senate
GA-3 Lynn Westmoreland (R) – Retiring
IL-8 Tammy Duckworth (D) – Running for Senate
IL-18 Aaron Schock (R) – Resigned
IN-3 Marlin Stutzman (R) – Running for Senate
IN-9 Todd Young (R) – Running for Senate
KY-1 Edward Whitfield (R) – Retiring
LA-3 Charles Boustany, Jr. (R) – Running for Senate
LA-4 John Fleming (R) – Running for Senate
MD-4 Donna Edwards (D) – Running for Senate
MD-8 Chris Van Hollen (D) – Running for Senate
MI-1 Dan Benishek (R) – Retiring
MI-10 Candice S. Miller (R) – Retiring
MN-2 John Kline (R) – Retiring
MS-1 Alan Nunnelee (R) – Died in office
NV-3 Joe Heck (R) – Running for Senate
New York
NY-3 Steve Israel (D) – Retiring
NY-11 Michael Grimm (R) – Resigned
NY-13 Charles B. Rangel (D) – Retiring
NY-19 Chris Gibson (R) – Retiring
NY-22 Richard Hanna (R) – Retiring
OH-8 John A. Boehner (R) – Resigned
PA-8 Michael G. Fitzpatrick (R) – Retiring
PA-16 Joe Pitts (R) – Retiring
TN-8 Stephen Fincher (R) – Retiring
TX-15 Rubén Hinojosa (D) – Retiring
TX-19 Randy Neugebauer (R) – Retiring
VA-2 Scott Rigell (R) – Retiring
VA-5 Robert Hurt (R) – Retiring
WA-7 Jim McDermott (D) – Retiring
WI-8 Reid Ribble (R) – Retiring
WY- At Large Cynthia M. Lummis (R) – Retiring

Back to the top.

Political Snippets from across the Country

US Senate Races

Arizona:  A new ballot proposal is beginning the qualification process for this year’s general election ballot. If qualified and adopted, the measure will change Arizona’s primary to a “top-two” system, similar to what is used in California, Louisiana, and Washington. Party labels would become less important as all candidates will appear on one ballot, and the top two finishers irrespective of party affiliation, will advance to the general election. The idea is to help the more moderate candidates in both parties, but that hasn’t necessarily been the outcome in the other states. Proponents must gather 255,963 valid signatures from registered voters by July 7 to qualify for the November ballot. They argue the system change is warranted because a plurality of Arizona voters is registered as Independents.

Florida:  Two weeks ago, Florida Atlantic University released their most recent survey and arrived at an improbable conclusion. Despite nothing happening to move votes in a significant manner, Rep. David Jolly (R-FL-13) jumped out to a 28-8-8% advantage over Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL-6) and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera(R) in the open Senate primary. For the Democrats, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL-9) held a 27-20% edge over Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18), which is consistent with other polling. Previously, the Republican race featured all candidates below 20% separated by only a few cumulative points. The open Florida race, the winner of which will replace outgoing Sen. Marco Rubio (R), could possibly be determinative regarding which party will either maintain or obtain Senate control next year.

IndianaJohn Dickerson (D), a non-profit organization executive, dropped his bid for the open Democratic senatorial nomination. The move means that former Rep.Baron Hill (D-IN-9) will be effectively unopposed for the upcoming campaign. Despite having the inside track for the party nomination, Hill will be regarded as a decided underdog against the eventual Republican nominee. Sen. Dan Coats (R) is retiring. Reps. Todd Young (R-IN-9) and Marlin Stutzman (R-IN-3) are the leading GOP candidates.

Louisiana:  As expected, five-term state Treasurer John Kennedy (R) announced that he is joining the open US Senate contest. Kennedy was elected to his current statewide position in 1999 as a Democrat, but switched to the GOP for the 2007 election. He has twice lost races for the Senate (in 2004 and 2008), and one for attorney general in 1991. Kennedy joins Reps. Charles Boustany (R-LA-3) andJohn Fleming (R-LA-7), former Rep. Joe Cao (R-LA-2), 2014 US Senate candidateRob Maness (R), Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta (R), and energy executive Josh Pellerin (D) as announced candidates. The Louisiana jungle primary is held concurrently with the November 8 general election. If no one receives a majority of the vote, the top two finishers will advance to a December 10 run-off election. Candidate filing does not conclude until July 22, so much time remains for others to also enter the campaign.

Maryland:  Two weeks ago, Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies released a new Maryland poll of the Democratic Senate primary scheduled for April 26. The data again reveals a close race between Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8) andDonna Edwards (D-MD-4). In this instance, Van Hollen claims a 38-36% lead over Edwards, which means a virtual tie. Edwards has a 65-15% edge with African Americans, which could be the deciding constituency in this primary. To win, however, Edwards will have to expand this margin.

New Hampshire:  NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist College again polled New Hampshire voters, and while the focus of the questions were on the presidential contest, they did ask 2,258 registered voters through an automated information system about the US Senate campaign on one single day, January 28.  The result finds first-term Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) leading Gov. Maggie Hassan (D), 45-40%, a margin range that has been prevalent for more than a year. Though Gov. Hassan officially announced her Senate candidacy in early October, the contest between the two statewide officeholders had been speculated upon for months. This particular race becomes, perhaps, the most difficult Senate contest in the nation in which to make an early prediction, other than we know the result will be close. New Hampshire is now the ultimate swing state in America, fluctuating often and wildly since first doing so in the 2004 presidential election. In that year, New Hampshire became the only state in the union to leave President George W. Bush to support then-Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (D). The final 2016 presidential wave will have a great deal of influence over the critical New Hampshire Senate race.

North Carolina:  A new Public Policy Polling survey finds Sen. Richard Burr (R) again leading all of his opponents. Against the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s (DSCC) favored candidate, former state Rep. Deborah Ross, Sen. Burr has opened up a 43-33% advantage. If Spring Lake Mayor Chris Rey were the Democratic nominee, Burr’s margin would be 44-32%. And, opposite businessmanKevin Griffin, the ballot test find Burr dropping to a 42-35% lead. Democrats failed at their candidate recruitment effort in this state, and Sen. Burr figures to grow stronger as the campaign progresses. Democrats will choose a nominee in theirMarch 15th primary.

Wisconsin:  The Marquette University Law School released another of their regular Wisconsin electorate surveys that again projects the Democratic challenger, former Sen. Russ Feingold, leading incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson (R) by a consistent and substantial margin. The latest numbers give the former three-term Senator a 50-37% lead over the first-term current incumbent. Their previous poll found a 50-38% margin.

US House of Representatives Races

NE-2:  In what will be a highly competitive general election campaign featuring freshman Rep. Brad Ashford (D-Omaha), Remington Research released a poll of the Republican congressional primary. According to published reports, former state Senator and Douglas County Commissioner Chip Maxwell leads retired Air Force General Don Bacon, 31-10%. Rep. Ashford unseated Rep. Lee Terry (R-Omaha) in the 2014 election, one of two Democratic challengers nationally to unseat a Republican incumbent. This district will also receive increased presidential attention since Nebraska splits its Electoral Votes and President Barack Obama carried the seat, and its one vote, in 2008 despite losing the state.

NY-19:  Local Democratic Party county chairs have settled upon Fordham University law professor Zephyr Teachout (D) as their favored candidate in the upcoming open congressional race. Rep. Chris Gibson (R-Kinderhook) is retiring ostensibly to organize a 2018 campaign for governor. The seat could be marginal in the general election though early local polling suggests Hillary Clinton’s standing in the district is weaker than expected for a former New York senator. Teachout challenged Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the 2014 gubernatorial primary and held him to a 63-33% re-nomination victory. Republicans are expected to coalesce around former state Assembly Minority Leader John Faso, who was the party’s 2006 gubernatorial nominee. This will be a race to watch in November.

NY-22:  The Democrats’ top choice for the open upstate seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Richard Hanna (R-Barneveld) is not going to enter the race. State Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi (D) announced that he will not run for Congress in 2016. Broome County legislator Kim Myers (D) is a potential candidate. Former Oneida legislator David Gordon (D) is already in the race, but the party leadership reportedly wants a more liberal nominee. Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, who challenged Rep. Hanna in the 2014 Republican primary, is already announced as is former Broome County legislator George Phillips. Other Republicans are soon expected to become candidates. This is likely to be a competitive general election open seat.

VA-2:  Retiring Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Virginia Beach), who publicly expressed a desire for former state Sen. Jeff McWaters (R) to succeed him before the latter declined to run, is now telling Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Chesapeake), whose 4th District will become highly Democratic if the new court ordered redistricting lines take effect for 2016, to jump into what will be an open 2nd District. If the court plan takes hold, the new 2nd will become much more strongly Republican. Rep. Forbes, however, has never represented any portion of what would become the new 2nd District. State Delegate Scott Taylor (R) has already announced his candidacy. Much is undecided in southeast Virginia politics, and will continue to be so until the Supreme Court makes their anticipated redistricting rulings relating to the Virginia map.

AZ-2:  Public Policy Polling on behalf of candidate Victoria Steele (D), surveyed the upcoming competitive 2016 congressional election. Freshman Rep. Martha McSally’s (R-Tucson) 167-vote victory proved to be the closest election finish of the entire 2014 congressional election cycle. The early numbers find Rep. McSally in strong position for re-election. The congresswoman leads Ms. Steele, a former state representative, 48-39% according to the PPP data. Against former state Rep.Matt Heinz (D), McSally tallies a slightly better 48-35% margin. According to theSeptember 30 financial disclosure report, the incumbent held almost $1.7 million in her campaign account.

MD-8David Trone, owner of the Total Wine store chain, entered the open suburban Washington, DC 8th District Democratic congressional primary. Mr. Trone says he will self-finance his late-starting campaign. He faces former news anchor and hotel executive Kathleen Matthews, wife of MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews, state Sen. Jamie Raskin, state House Majority Leader Kumar Barve, and several minor candidates. Winning the Democratic nomination in this Montgomery County-anchored district is tantamount to winning the general election. The Maryland primary is scheduled for April 26. Incumbent Rep. Chris Van Hollen(D) is running for Senate.

NV-3:  Despite the marginal nature of this southern Clark County seat, Democrats had a hard time recruiting a candidate. The seat is open for 2016 because incumbent Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) is running for the Senate. Republicans are coalescing around state Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, though perennial candidateDanny Tarkanian (R), son of the late Hall of Fame college basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, is also running. The new candidate is businesswoman Jacky Rosen (D), who becomes the favorite for the party nomination and will likely attract national support, including that from outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D). Since Nevada is a critical state in the presidential and US Senate picture, the Democrats are forced to make a strong push to convert the most politically marginal district in what is proving to be a pivotal political state.

PA-8:  A new Republican candidate has emerged for the Bucks County seat of retiring Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Levittown). The congressman’s brother, Brian Fitzpatrick, a retired FBI agent, this week announced that he will enter the open seat campaign. State Rep. Scott Petri (R) is already a candidate as is former Bucks County Commissioner Andy Warren (R). Democrats are looking to state Rep.Steve Santarsiero and defeated 2014 congressional candidate Shaughnessy Naughton, a businesswoman who attracts national liberal support. The marginal 8th District will be highly competitive in the general election.

Gubernatorial Races

Montana:  State Public Service Commissioner Brad Johnson (R) has ended his campaign for governor, leaving wealthy technology businessman Greg Gianforte as the heavy favorite for the Republican nomination. At this point, with candidate filing set to close on March 14, only former teacher and defeated state senate candidateMark Perea is Gianforte’s lone primary opponent. Upon winning the June 7Republican primary, the new nominee will face first term Gov. Steve Bullock (D), in what will be an uphill general election battle for the Republican standard bearer despite the state likely going for the GOP nominee in the presidential contest.

North Carolina:  The recently released Public Policy Polling survey also tested the upcoming governor’s campaign. Here again, we see Gov. Pat McCrory (R) with weak job approval ratings, 35:48% positive to negative, but the sample contains a slight Democratic skew. The ballot test again projects a very close race between McCrory and Attorney General Roy Cooper (D). The latest numbers find the Democratic challenger leading the incumbent governor 43-40%.

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