This week’s updates, in terms of the raw numbers, show a shift to the Republicans in the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House and in two gubernatorial races. Looking at the most recent available public polling, this blog now believes that it is clear that the Republican Party is on pace to capture 51 seats—and the majority—in the Senate. It also appears that the GOP is on pace to make a net gain of eight seats in the House, for a 242-193 majority, and to lose a net of two governorships, as compared to this blog’s opinion last week that Republicans were on pace to lose four. Updates to the ratings are pointed out below, and the chart of all competitive races, and their ratings, can be found by clicking here.
Senate Race Updates
I have long recognized the weakness of the campaign of Democrat Bruce Braley, currently a U.S. representative from Iowa’s 1st District, who was caught on tape some months ago making a remark disparaging the notion of a farmer (Iowa’s Republican Senator, Chuck Grassley) becoming the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Meritorious or not, this remark was bound to cause him trouble in Iowa, and the results of a Sept. 24 Des Moines Register Iowa Poll, by respected pollster Selzer & Co., indicate he has never recovered from the gaffe. Selzer’s Iowa Poll now shows Republican Joni Ernst ahead by 6 points. While the last 12 polls have had Braley ahead in three and Ernst ahead in three, with the other six tied, Ernst appears to have the edge and this blog is moving Iowa from “Leans Democratic” to “Leans Republican,” and this puts Republicans on track to claim 51 Senate seats on Election Day.
I have always considered this state the best shot, in all the 2012 Romney seats held by Democrats, for the Democrats to hang on, and the recent polling indicates that Sen. Kay Hagan (D) is ahead by a slim but consistent margin. She has led in 10 of the last 11 polls since mid-August, and her opponent, Republican Thom Tillis, led by only 1 point in the one poll which he led. I am now moving this race from “Leans Democratic” to “Likely Democratic.”
The campaign of Republican challenger Monica Wehby has been a train wreck, beset by numerous allegations against Wehby that include plagiarism and stalking. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) holds double digit polling leads, and I see no way that he loses this race. This blog is moving Oregon from “Likely Democratic” to “Safe Democratic.”
The uncertainty inherent in a three-candidate race, with former Republican Sen. Larry Pressler achieving sizable polling numbers as an independent, has kept South Dakota at “Likely Republican.” However, Gov. Mike Rounds (R) continues to hold a double digit lead, and this blog is moving South Dakota from “Likely Republican” to “Safe Republican.”
Although the most recent public polls give a slight lead, on average, to challenger Cory Gardner (R), a Quinnipiac poll giving him an 8-point lead appears to be an outlier. The preponderance of the public polling still favors Sen. Mark Udall (D), but if more than two notable polls show a Gardner lead, a reassessment of the race may be in order. For now, this race stays “Leans Democratic” but moves onto the Watch List. Keep in mind that recent elections have shown Democrats outperforming their polling numbers in Colorado on Election Day.
Sen. Mark Begich (D) has not led in a single poll since August 3rd, and this blog already has this race designated “Leans Republican.” The average lead for Republican challenger Dan Sullivan is just shy of 5 points. If Begich’s numbers do not begin improving soon, the race will shift to “Likely Republican,” but I am going to keep it unchanged right now until more data is available. At this point, I am confident enough of a Republican lead in this race to move it off the Watch List. In recent elections, Republicans have considerably outperformed their polling numbers in Alaska on Election Day.
House Race Updates
New York 11th District
It has long been presumed that Congressman Michael Grimm (R), embroiled in legal issues, would lose this district centered on Staten Island and also including a small part of Brooklyn. However, a Siena College poll published Sept. 17th actually showed Grimm with a 4-point lead over Democrat Dominic Recchia. Given the district’s Republican lean and the results of the recent poll, I am moving the race from “Leans Democratic” to “Leans Republican” and placing this race on the Watch List.
Hawaii 1st District
A recent Honolulu Civil Beat/MRG poll showed former Congressman Charles Djou (R) leading Democratic nominee Mark Takai by 4 points. Given that polling in Hawaii is sometimes wildly off the mark, as well as Hawaii’s considerable Democratic skew, it is hard to take this poll at face value. That said, Djou has previously won the district, albeit in a special election, and even when he lost the seat, he competed well. I am moving this race from “Likely Democratic” to “Leans Democratic” and moving it to the Watch List.
Gubernatorial Race Updates
A series of polls showing a tightening race, including a poll showing Democratic challenger Mark Schauer with a slight lead on August 10th, caused me to take a gamble and bet on Schauer’s trend line. Since that time, recent polling has shown Republican Gov. Rick Snyder reopening a lead, and I am moving this race from “Leans Democratic” to “Leans Republican.” I am keeping it on the Watch List for now.
Democratic challenger Mary Burke appeared to be making a move in the polls, but the last two have gone back in the direction of Gov. Scott Walker (R). This is a very tight race, but with Walker leading in a slight majority of polls right now, I am moving this race back from “Leans Democratic” to “Leans Republican,” but also putting it on the Watch List.
Democrat Anthony Brown is averaging a 15-point lead over Republican Larry Hogan, and Maryland is a heavily Democratic state. This blog is moving Maryland from “Likely Democratic” to “Safe Democratic.”
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has not trailed in a single public poll and, on average, leads Republican challenger Jeff Johnson by 9 points. This blog is moving Minnesota from “Likely Democratic” to “Safe Democratic.”
There is no evidence that Democrat Chuck Hassebrook is making inroads in this heavily Republican state against Republican Pete Ricketts, who led the most recent public poll by 20 points. This blog is moving Nebraska from “Likely Republican” to “Safe Republican.”
Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan has not led Republican Walt Havenstein by fewer than 12 points in a single reputable public poll. This blog is moving New Hampshire from “Likely Democratic” to “Safe Democratic.”
No reputable public polling has shown Democratic challenger Vincent Sheheen within 10 points of Gov. Nikki Haley (R) in the last 11 months. Despite the fact that these two candidates had a close race four years ago, there is no way to keep this one in the “Likely Republican” column, and I am moving it to “Safe Republican.” Frankly, I missed the boat on this one by not moving it earlier.
A recent outlier by Quinnipiac showing Republican challenger Bob Beauprez with a 10-point lead has skewed the numbers to give him a slight lead, on average, but this poll is so far afield from all other recent polling that I tend to discount it. As in the Senate race, I am also factoring in the fact that Democrats, in recent years, have outperformed their polling numbers in Colorado and keeping this race at “Leans Democratic” in favor of Gov. John Hickenlooper. However, I am moving it onto the Watch List.