Election Projections: October 25, 2014

For my latest ratings chart, click here.

U.S Senate
Republicans +6, Independents +1
GOP 51, Democrats 47, Independents 2

While I have no ratings changes this week, an explanation is in order in two races in which my current ratings run contrary to the public polling averages.

In Colorado, I continue to stick with Democratic incumbent Mark Udall, despite the fact that Republican challenger Cory Gardner has led every public poll since Oct. 1st. However, this is a close call and I am monitoring this race every day.

At the moment, Real Clear Politics indicates that Gardner’s average polling lead is 3.8%. This is a crucial number. In at least the last two election cycles, the final RCP average has shown Democrats in key statewide races—Sen. Michael Bennet in 2010, and President Barack Obama in 2012—outperforming those final averages by exactly 3.9% each. Additionally, recent reports indicate Colorado’s turnout might be unusually high for a midterm, and the state recently went to a system by which all voters may choose to vote by mail, which might aid turnout. Polling models tend to dismiss “unlikely voters,” but the ability to vote by mail has the potential to change the equation for individuals who are more willing to fill out a ballot at home rather than trekking to the polls. If so, we won’t learn that until Election Day; at least some of the polls won’t pick it up, and that could affect the averages. But the bottom line is that higher turnout almost always benefits Democrats, whose voters tend to be less reliable, so if high turnout does materialize in Colorado, it is almost certainly going to be to Udall’s benefit.

My final call in this race next week will come down to whether Gardner’s average polling lead is at least four points. If Gardner is leading by four points or more on Nov. 1st, I will change the rating. Otherwise, I am going to rely on past experience and stick with Udall.

In Georgia, I continue to rate the Senate race as “Leans Republican” despite the fact that Democrat Michelle Nunn has surged into a small lead over Republican David Perdue. Because of Georgia’s peculiar runoff rule—initially instituted by conservative segregationists decades ago to help prevent liberals or political outsiders from winning elections—a candidate must secure at least 50 percent of the votes on Election Day, or the top two vote-getters advance to a January runoff. At this point, I still do not see Nunn getting to that magic number of 50 percent, and even if she places first on Election Day, the dynamics of a runoff—with much lower turnout to be expected, and the fact that cash-rich conservative groups will spend the ensuing two months blasting her repeatedly over the airwaves—lead me to believe that she ultimately will not win the seat. Nunn’s hopes of winning this seat probably rest on her getting to 50 percent by Nov. 4th.

U.S. House of Representatives
Republicans +5
GOP 239, Democrats 196

Today, I am changing the rating in Minnesota’s 8th District from “Leans Democratic” to “Leans Republican.” A recent SurveyUSA poll, released Oct. 16, shows Republican challenger Stewart Mills with an eight-point lead over incumbent Democrat Rick Nolan. Word has been filtering out from Washington, D.C., for months about Nolan’s weak fundraising performance, and this is by no means a safe Democratic district in which a Democratic incumbent can simply coast. My best guess at this point, based on the available data and anecdotal information, is that Mills ousts Nolan on Nov. 4th.

I am also making a rating change in Arkansas’ 2nd District, where it now appears that Democrat Pat Hays has the lead over Republican French Hill in an open-seat race.  Hays has gone from losing 44%-43% to Hill in a Hendrix College poll released July 31st to leading in a poll by the same pollster, 46%-42%, on Oct. 20th. This is the most Democratic district in Arkansas, and the frantic efforts to boost Democratic turnout on behalf of endangered Sen. Mark Pryor may end up benefiting Hays more than they benefit Pryor.

As these two ratings changes cancel each other out, I am making no change this week in my projection of a modest, five-seat gain for Republicans, but again, I caution that this is almost certainly a floor and not a ceiling for the GOP.

Additionally, I am moving the race in Nevada’s 4th District from “Likely Democratic” to “Leans Democratic” and placing it on the Watch List. I learned yesterday, in a Twitter exchange with Nevada political journalist Jon Ralston (www.ralstonreports.com) that early Republican voting in Nevada is so strong, GOP challenger Cresent Hardy may have the potential to upset incumbent Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford. I am also reading from numerous sources that outside Republican groups are flooding money into this district, hoping to push Hardy over the top. I have read enough of Mr. Ralston’s work in recent years to know that he has his finger on the pulse of Nevada politics and is, in fact, one of the best state-level political analysts in America, so I trust his assessment. I am going to keep a close watch on this race over the next week to see if a further change in its rating is in order.

Additionally, I am placing two races back on my list due to dramatic closes in recent polling, and adding another not previously listed.

In Arkansas’ 4th District, a Hendrix College poll released Oct. 21 showed Republican Bruce Westerman leading former FEMA director James Lee Witt, a Democrat, 44%-42%. This reflects a dramatic narrowing from a previous poll on July 31st showing Westerman ahead 48%-34%. The only other poll I can find for this district was a Wes Anderson poll on Aug. 21, showing Westerman ahead 47%-29%, but with a large number of undecideds (24%) and Westerman still under 50%. While Westerman is clearly still ahead, there has been enough of a narrowing in two polls by the same pollster that I can no longer consider it “Safe Republican,” and I am going to re-list this one as “Leans Republican.” It may well be that the ongoing efforts to boost Democratic turnout for Sen. Mark Pryor are helping Witt also.

In California’s 21st District, Democratic challenger Amanda Renteria has made a major turnaround in a little over a month. A SurveyUSA poll released Oct. 21 showed her trailing incumbent Republican David Valadao 47%-42%, as compared to a survey released Sept. 9 by the same pollster with Valadao ahead 56%-37%. I think it is clear that Valadao remains ahead, but I am putting this race back on my list as “Likely Republican.”

A surprisingly close race has developed in Massachusetts’ 9th District, in which two Emerson College polls in the last few weeks have produced differing results. The first, released Oct. 8th, showed Republican challenger John Chapman with a surprising 45%-40% lead over incumbent Democrat William Keating. The most recent survey, released Oct. 20th, showed Keating back in front, but only by three points, 47%-44%. I am adding this race to the list as “Leans Democratic” and placing it on the Watch List.

Finally, there are two southern California races I am watching very closely, and while I am not changing their ratings this week (both currently rated “Leans Democratic”), I am going to do a final, in-depth analysis on them over the coming week. CA-26, based mostly in Ventura County, features a tight race between incumbent Democrat Julia Brownley and Republican challenger Jeff Gorell, currently a state legislator. CA-52, based in the San Diego area, also has a tight race between incumbent Democrat Scott Peters and Republican challenger Carl DeMaio, most recently a San Diego city councilman. In both cases, the Republicans have made a point of demonstrating that they are social moderates, and both districts are close to an even GOP/Democratic split. Along with AZ-2 and IL-10, these are among the races in which I am having the biggest struggles with making a call. If Republican performance nationally is better than expected, these four will be among the first currently “Leans Democratic” seats to flip to the GOP.

Democrats +2, Independents +1
Republicans 26, Democrats 23, Independents 1

I am making one rating change this week. In Massachusetts, it is now clear that Democrat Martha Coakley, who infamously faded at the end of a special election for the U.S. Senate and lost to Republican Scott Brown, is in the process of another late collapse. Republican Charlie Baker has led in four of the last six polls and is now clearly ahead. Coakley may yet win, if Massachusetts’ Democrats turn out and save her in this heavily Democratic state, but at this point, it does not look promising.

Election Projections: October 18, 2014

After a major scrub of my rankings last week, I have very few ratings changes this week, but there are a number of races that bear watching. For my complete, updated list of close House, Senate and governor races, click here.

The Situation in the U.S. House of Representatives

Republicans +5
GOP 239, Democrats 196

With 17 days left before the election, I will admit that I think my expectation of five Republican pickups in the House seems very low, but as I go through race by race, that’s the number I get. That said, if Republicans do really well on Election Day, or Democrats do really poorly, it wouldn’t be impossible for Republicans to exceed my expectations significantly. There are perhaps as many as 15 seats I currently list “Leans Democratic” that could, in a wave, flip to the Republicans, which would represent a substantial, 20-seat pickup and a huge House majority for the GOP. But at this moment, looking at all the closest races, I am only seeing a five-seat GOP gain.

Part of what is going on here is the fact that gerrymandering of Congressional districts after 2010 largely maxed out the Republicans in the House—there just isn’t that much room for the GOP to gain seats. For them to pick up 15-20 seats would require almost every close race to go their way, which can happen in a “wave” election. Given voters’ unhappiness with both parties, it is hard to see a wave developing. But again, I am going to be watching closely over the next two weeks to see if any of those marginal Democratic seats I referenced above are showing any signs of movement.

I will say this: the five-seat gain I currently see for Republicans is a floor, not a ceiling, and if this is the ultimate result, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee deserves a big pat on the back for limiting its losses.

I have only three race rating changes this week in the House:

Nebraska 2nd District: Leans Republican to Leans Democratic; Remains on Watch List

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) went up last week in this Omaha-based district with an ad reminiscent of the infamous Willie Horton ad run by the George H.W. Bush campaign in 1988. The ad showed pictures of a black convicted felon and tried to tie his early release—and subsequent violent actions—to Democratic candidate Brad Ashford. Given the controversy this ad was sure to generate, one assumes that this is a “Hail Mary,” and a Roll Call article on the ad reports that both Democratic and Republican polling shows incumbent Republican Lee Terry trailing. Terry has always struggled in this district, and it appears clear that he is now in serious danger of being unseated.

New York 24th District: Likely Democratic to Leans Democratic

Recent polling shows Republican John Katko cutting into the margin enjoyed by incumbent Democrat Dan Maffei. This one may end up being close, but Maffei still appears to have the edge.

Wisconsin 6th District: Likely Democratic to Safe Democratic; Removed from Ratings List

The only reason I kept this race on the board last week was because I simply could not find any polling data, but the fact is that this is a Republican district. Mitt Romney carried it by 7 points in 2012. There is no point in keeping this one on the list.

The Situation in the U.S. Senate

Republicans +6
GOP 51, Democrats 47, Independents 2

While I have no ratings changes this week, I am looking closely at the situation in Kansas, where the early lead for independent candidate Greg Orman over Republican Senator Pat Roberts appears to have largely evaporated. If this trend continues, Roberts is likely to hold on.

Also, I am closely watching both Iowa and Colorado. In Iowa, embattled Democratic candidate Bruce Braley appears to be making a move in the polling against his Republican opponent, Joni Ernst. In Colorado, Republican challenger Cory Gardner continues to maintain and grow his small polling lead against incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Udall, but I am keeping this race at “Leans Democratic” due to the recent history of Democrats significantly outperforming their polling in Colorado. If the trend continues and Gardner increases his average lead to more than 3 or 4 points, it is going to be difficult not to reconsider.

And South Dakota remains interesting due to the continuing failure of Republican candidate Mike Rounds to put the race away. A Republican poll out last week had him leading his Democratic opponent, Rick Weiland, by only 4 points. When a Republican poll shows a Democrat surging, it is worth taking notice.

In Georgia, Democrat Michelle Nunn continues to surge against Republican David Perdue, even taking a 1-point lead in one poll last week. However, given the presence of a third-party candidate in the race, the likelihood that Nunn will get more than 50 percent is low, and if the race does go to a runoff, the Republicans are likely to have the advantage.

At this point, all other Senate races look stable.

The Situation in the Statehouses

Democrats +3/Republicans -4
Republicans 25, Democrats 24, Independents 1

While I have only one ratings change this week, I am closely watching the tightening races in Kansas, Massachusetts and Wisconsin. These three are very tight and appear very hard to call right now.

Arkansas: Leans Republican to Likely Republican

In Arkansas, Republican Asa Hutchinson is widening his lead against Democrat Mike Ross. His average lead is now six points, so it appears very unlikely at this point that Ross will prevail.

Narrowing the Field: Election Projections, Oct. 11, 2014

With barely more than three weeks left before the midterm elections, I have done a thorough review of every race on my Ratings List, which you can access by clicking here.

I have removed any races from the list that I now consider to be safe wins for either party and revised a number of other ratings. My revised list has been narrowed down to 56 U.S. House races, 12 U.S. Senate races, and 16 governors’ races. I consider all other races to be safe for one party or the other.

The Skinny: U.S. House
Republicans 240, Democrats 195 (GOP +6)
As of this moment, I am seeing slight movement in the Democrats’ direction in the U.S. House, and I am now projecting a Republican pickup of only six seats, as compared with eight last week, for a 240-195 GOP majority.

The Skinny: U.S. Senate
Republicans 51, Democrats 47, Independents 2 (GOP +6)
The seat projections remain unchanged in the Senate, where I see the Republicans making a net gain of six seats. This would give them a bare majority of 51 seats, with Democrats holding 47 (including Bernie Sanders, an independent who reliably caucuses with Democrats), and independents having two seats.

The Skinny: Governors
Republicans 25, Democrats 24, Independent 1 (Democrats +3, GOP -4)
I also am seeing movement in the Democrats’ direction in the governors’ races and am now projecting a net gain of three seats for the Democrats, as well as a pickup by an independent candidate in Alaska, for a net Republican loss of four seats. This would give the Republicans 25 governors’ mansions to 24 for the Democrats and one independent.

Upcoming Final Projections
I will make my final projections in three weeks, on November 1, three days prior to the elections. In 2012, I came within one seat of the final margin in the House and one seat of the final margin in the Senate. I have never offered governors’ race projections before.

Governor Rating Changes

Alaska: Leans Republican to Leans Independent; Added to Watch List

Republican Gov. Sean Parnell has only led in one poll in the last three weeks. Independent candidate Bill Walker, boosted when the Democratic candidate dropped out and joined his ticket as the lieutenant governor candidate, clearly has the lead at this point. Can he hold it? Time will tell.

Florida: Leans Republican to Leans Democratic

Former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, now a Democrat, seems to have the polling mojo headed his direction, as he has led four of the last six public surveys. If the closeness of the race boosts turnout, Crist is likely to prevail. The lower the turnout, the better chance that embattled GOP Gov. Rick Scott hangs on.

Kansas: Added to Watch List

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, thought to be dead in the water, has made a move in some recent polls. While he still trails, it is very close, and Democrat Paul Davis must never consider himself safe in a state as Republican as Kansas.

Maine: Added to Watch List

If Maine were a two-way race, Democratic challenger Mike Michaud would be cruising to victory over Republican Gov. Paul LePage. But the presence of a strong independent candidate, Eliot Cutler, has kept this race in doubt, and LePage appears to be dead even at this point. Unless Cutler begins to fade, LePage has a chance to prevail—with less than 40 percent of the vote—in a very tight three-way race.

Maryland: Safe Democratic; Removed from Ratings

Democratic candidate Anthony Brown leads Republican Larry Hogan by an average of 13 points. Even in an open-seat race, Hogan never really had a chance in this heavily Democratic state.

Minnesota: Safe Democratic; Removed from Ratings

Gov. Mark Dayton is coasting to reelection by an average of more than 10 points over Republican challenger Jeff Johnson.

Nebraska: Safe Republican; Removed from Ratings

Republican candidate Pete Ricketts has led the last two public polls over Democrat Chuck Hassebrook by 20 points.

New Hampshire: Safe Democratic; Removed from Ratings

Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan averages a 10-point lead over Republican Walt Havenstein, who has not led in a single reputable public poll.

Ohio: Safe Republican; Removed from Ratings

Ohio Democrats are now worried that the epic collapse of gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald, who trails Republican Gov. John Kasich by an average of more than 20 points, will take down the entire Democratic ticket statewide.

Oregon: Safe Democratic to Likely Democratic

The bizarre revelation that Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber’s fiancée once married an immigrant for $5,000 so he could get his green card probably won’t take him down in his reelection race against Republican Dennis Richardson. Kitzhaber leads, on average, by just a hair under 10 points. But I’m going to keep an eye on this one, because you just never know what kind of foolishness the public is going to decide is important.

Pennsylvania: Safe Democratic; Removed from Ratings

Democratic challenger Tom Wolf is averaging a 15-point lead over the nation’s most unpopular governor, Republican Tom Corbett. This one’s over.

Rhode Island: Likely Democratic to Leans Democratic

Recent polling shows Democratic candidate Gina Raimondo only leading Republican Allan Fung by an average of four points.

South Carolina: Safe Republican; Removed from Ratings

Republican Gov. Nikki Haley leads all polling against Democratic challenger Vincent Sheheen by an average of more than 13 points.

Texas: Safe Republican; Removed from Ratings

The uproar over an ad released by Democratic candidate Wendy Davis against Republican candidate Greg Abbott might hurt her numbers, but the results of this race have never been in any serious doubt. Abbott’s average lead is more than 11 points.

Senate Rating Changes

Minnesota: Likely Democratic to Safe Democratic; Removed from Ratings

Republican challenger Mike McFadden hasn’t led in a single public poll, and Democratic Sen. Al Franken’s average lead is 11.5 points. There is no point in continuing to track this race.

Mississippi: Safe Republican; Removed from Ratings

Any hopes Democrat Travis Childers had of winning here hinged on longtime Republican incumbent Thad Cochran losing his primary. Last week, the Biloxi Sun-Herald reported that Childers was gaining on Cochran, but Cochran still led that poll by 11 points.

Montana: Safe Republican; Removed from Ratings

Things were tough enough for the Democrats here when former Gov. Brian Schweitzer elected not to run for this open seat. They got tougher when their appointed Senator, John Walsh, had to drop out when it was uncovered he had committed plagiarism while pursuing a degree at the Army War College. A young state legislator, Amanda Curtis, stepped up to fill the Democratic ballot spot, but she has no chance against Republican Steve Daines, whose average lead is more than 20 points.

Oregon: Safe Democratic; Removed from Ratings

Incumbent Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley averages more than a 13-point lead against Republican challenger Monica Wehby, who has been accused of stalking and plagiarism. It is a wonder the race is as close as it is.

South Dakota: Safe Republican to Leans Republican; Added to Watch List

The race in South Dakota has recently been turned on its head, as Republican candidate Mike Rounds has watched his lead shrink to single digits over Democrat Rick Weiland and former Republican Sen. Larry Pressler, who is running as an independent. Possibly smelling blood, the national Democrats just pumped $1 million in advertising into the race, which is a major investment in this rural, low-population state.

Virginia: Safe Democratic; Removed from Ratings

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner is the most popular politician in Virginia. Republican contender Ed Gillespie has mounted the best challenge anyone could have, but he trails, on average, by about 11 points. He never had a chance.

West Virginia: Safe Republican; Removed from Ratings

Although Democrat Natalie Tennant, the Secretary of State, is clearly a promising young politician and may yet have a future, the future isn’t here for her yet. GOP Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito averages a 17-point lead in this open-seat race. This one’s over and has never really been in doubt.

House Rating Changes

With a lack of reliable public polling in many House races, these contests require an observer to look for other clues as to what may be going on. That is why I am going to make a large number of House race ratings changes this week, despite not having much reliable polling information.

Arizona 2nd District: Leans Republican to Leans Democratic; Added to Watch List

The only polling result I can find was a Democratic poll showing incumbent Ron Barber leading Republican Martha McSally, who barely missed defeating Barber in 2012. I tend to take partisan polls with a grain of salt, and I have consistently rated this race “Leans Republican.” However, given the margin in this poll (eight points), I am now moving it to “Leans Democratic” and placing it on the Watch List.

Arizona 9th District: Leans Democratic to Likely Democratic; Removed from Watch List

I have consistently rated the race between first-term Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema (D) and her Republican opponent, Wendy Rogers, “Leans Democratic.” I based this ranking on the fact that Sinema won an extremely close race in 2012 and the high likelihood that Democratic turnout will drop more in this year’s midterm elections than Republican turnout will. However, I recently read that Rogers had run what can only be described as a desperate ad, somehow linking ISIS beheadings to Sinema. Such a gambit tells me that Rogers is behind and believes she needs a Hail Mary to get back in the game. As a result, I am moving this district to “Likely Democratic” and moving it off the Watch List.

Arkansas 2nd District: Added to Watch List

In Arkansas’ 2nd District, the state’s best district for Democrats and an open seat, two polls show a mixed bag between Republican French Hill and Democrat Pat Hays. I expect that Hill is probably ahead slightly, so I am keeping it at “Leans Republican” for now, but I am moving it to the Watch List.

Arkansas 4th District: Likely Republican to Safe Republican; Removed from Ratings

In Arkansas’ 4th District, I thought that former FEMA director James Lee Witt, a Democrat, might be able to make a competitive race against Republican Bruce Westerman in an open seat. The only polling I am seeing shows him down by double digits. At this point, I do not see any evidence that this race is going to be competitive, so I am moving it off my ratings list entirely.

California 3rd District: Likely Democratic to Safe Democratic; Removed from Ratings

In California’s 3rd District, I had seen some information a few weeks ago that made it appear Democratic incumbent John Garamendi might have a tough race. But the last internal poll conducted for Republican candidate Dan Logue showed Garamendi up by six points. If a Republican poll shows a Democrat ahead by six points, the real margin is probably double digits. I am moving this race off my ratings list.

California 7th District: Leans Democratic to Leans Republican; Remains on Watch List

Last week, the Democrats pulled nearly $3 million from Virginia’s 10th District and sent $2 million from that race to first-term Congressman Ami Bera. This cannot be a good sign for Bera, who led former GOP Congressman Doug Ose by just four points in a mid-September Democratic poll. It is also worth noting that in the June “jungle primary,” Bera managed less than 47 percent of the vote against three Republicans, a Libertarian and an independent. If the Democrats can turn out their vote, Bera may yet prevail, but the shifting of that kind of money tells me that they smell trouble. I am moving this race from “Leans Democratic” to “Leans Republican” and keeping it on the Watch List.

California 10th District: Safe Republican; Removed from Ratings

Although Republican Congressman Jeff Denham had a relatively close race in 2012, winning by slightly more than 5 percent, nothing indicates he is in for another tussle this year against Democrat Michael Eggman. National Democrats pulled their advertising here last week. Although this is not a ratings change, I am now moving it, and all other races rated “Safe,” off the board.

California 21st District: Safe Republican; Removed from Ratings

I was surprised to see a number of other leading analysts thought this race might be competitive, even though Republican David Valadao won it by 15 points in 2012. National Democrats recently pulled their advertising here on behalf of Democrat Amanda Renteria. The only public poll I can find showed Valadao with a 19-point lead, and he won 63 percent of the vote in the June “jungle primary,” so I see no evidence that this race is in doubt in any way. I am taking it off the board.

California 36th District: Leans Democratic to Likely Democratic

Democrats are not advertising here, which is a sign that they do not expect first-term incumbent Raul Ruiz is in danger against Republican Brian Nestande. Unlike several other California Democrats thought to be vulnerable, Ruiz topped 50 percent in the June “jungle primary,” and it is likely he will improve his position in a general election with higher turnout.

California 52nd District: Leans Republican to Leans Democratic; Added to Watch List

Republicans have been very high on their candidate, Carl DeMaio, a moderate on social issues who is also gay. Given the fact that first-term incumbent Scott Peters pulled less than 43 percent in the June “jungle primary,” and my expectation that DeMaio’s positioning on social issues would benefit him, I have long considered him the favorite. But recent polling has given a slight edge to Peters, and surprisingly, the Chamber of Commerce endorsed the Democrat. Coupled with news on Friday that DeMaio has been accused of sexual harassment by a former aide, and that his story bears similarities to previous accusations against DeMaio, I am now moving this rating into the Democratic column. However, given Peters’ poor performance in June, I am keeping this race on the Watch List.

Colorado 6th District: Removed from Watch List

The Democrats this week redirected funding from their candidate, Andrew Romanoff, and news stories indicate that incumbent Republican Mike Coffman holds consistent polling leads. Romanoff has raised a great deal of money on his own, and he is reputedly an excellent candidate, so I am keeping the race at “Leans Republican,” but I am taking it off of the Watch List.

Illinois 10th District: Leans Republican to Leans Democratic; Added to Watch List

I have consistently favored former GOP Congressman Bob Dold to reclaim this seat in the tony north shore exurbs of Chicago, which has a strong Democratic lean in presidential elections, but also usually elects moderate Republicans to Congress. Congressman Brad Schneider (D) broke that streak in narrowly defeating Dold in 2012. My assumptions have been that in a year with significantly lower turnout, and with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn struggling, Democrats would be at a disadvantage in this race. However, recent polling indicates that Quinn’s fortunes have improved, and a We Ask America poll, typically a Republican leaner, showed Schneider up by two points. I now give the edge to Schneider, but there is enough doubt that I am adding this race to the Watch List.

Illinois 13th District: Leans Republican to Safe Republican; Removed from Ratings

A Republican poll showing incumbent Rodney Davis with a 19-point lead last month, coupled with the recent announcement that Democrats are canceling some ads on behalf of challenger Ann Callis, make it clear that this one is all but over. I am taking this race off the Ratings List entirely.

Iowa 1st District: Added to Watch List

A poll last week showed Republican Rod Blum with a 1-point lead over Democrat Pat Murphy for an open seat in northeastern Iowa. I still think the fundamentals of the district favor the Democrat, but I am placing this race on the Watch List.

Iowa 4th District: Safe Republican; Removed from Ratings

Every election, Democrats always hope that this year will be the year they’ll take down the notorious Republican incumbent, Steve King. But this is Iowa’s safest district for Republicans, and the national Democrats recently pulled the funding plug on Democratic candidate Jim Mowrer. This one comes off the Rating List.

Michigan 1st District: Leans Republican to Likely Republican

Democrats recently cut back on advertising in this district and three other Michigan districts where their prospects appear to be dimming. Incumbent Dan Benishek barely held off a Democratic challenge in 2012, but he appears to have the advantage over Democrat Jerry Cannon this year.

Michigan 7th District: Likely Republican to Safe Republican; Removed from Ratings

National Democrats have pulled funding for Pam Byrnes in her race against incumbent Republican Tim Walberg.

Michigan 8th District: Likely Republican to Safe Republican; Removed from Ratings

National Democrats also have pulled funding for Eric Schertzing in his open-seat race against Republican Mike Bishop. This seat was always a longshot.

Michigan 11th District: Safe Republican; Removed from Ratings

As in the other Michigan districts, the national Democrats have pulled the plug on Bobby McKenzie’s open-seat race against Republican David Trott.

Minnesota 2nd District: Likely Republican to Leans Republican

Comedian and talk show host Bill Maher named incumbent Republican Rep. John Kline as the target of his “Flip A District” campaign, bringing funding and publicity to his Democratic challenger, Mike Obermueller. At least one poll has shown Obermueller ahead. I doubt its accuracy, but I am moving the rating one step in the Democratic direction. Stay tuned.

Minnesota 7th District: Leans Democratic to Likely Democratic

A new poll this week from a nonpartisan pollster shows incumbent Democrat Collin Peterson with a 9-point lead over Republican Torrey Westrom. I am moving this race to Likely Democratic.

New Jersey 2nd District: Safe Republican to Likely Republican

An independent poll last week showed Republican incumbent Frank LoBiondo only leading Democrat Bill Hughes by six points. It’s still not close enough to move into the “lean” category, but certainly close enough to downgrade from “safe.”

New York 4th District: Safe Democratic; Removed from Ratings

The most recent credible poll shows Democrat Kathleen Rice with an 18-point lead over Republican Bruce Blakeman in this open-seat race. This was always a longshot for the GOP.

New York 18th District: Removed from Watch List

The most recent polling I could find here, including a Republican poll in late September, show Democratic incumbent Sean Maloney leading this rematch against former Republican Congresswoman Nan Hayworth by 6-8 points. I am keeping this at “Leans Democratic” due to the fact that Democrats are boosting advertising for Maloney, so they must be seeing some vulnerability that these most recent polls are not indicating.

New York 19th District: Likely Republican to Safe Republican; Removed from Ratings

The most recent poll I could find here showed Republican incumbent Chris Gibson pulling away to a 24-point lead over Democrat Sean Eldridge.

New York 23rd District: Likely Republican to Safe Republican; Removed from Ratings

Things haven’t looked promising here at any time for Democrat Martha Robertson in her race to unseat incumbent Republican Tom Reed, and the national Democrats just pulled their advertising.

Ohio 6th and 14th Districts: Likely Republican to Safe Republican; Removed from Ratings

At this point, there is no reason to expect Democrats Jennifer Garrison or Michael Wager to prevail in the 6th and 14th districts, respectively, against incumbent Republicans Bill Johnson and David Joyce.

Oregon 5th District: Likely Democratic to Safe Democratic; Removed from Ratings

There is no evidence that Republican Tootie Smith will unseat incumbent Democrat Kurt Schrader, who has won the endorsement of the Farm Bureau, not exactly the most Democratic-friendly organization. One expects the endorsement would go in a different direction if there were much chance the Republicans would prevail here.

Pennsylvania 6th and 8th Districts: Likely Republican to Safe Republican; Removed from Ratings

Democrats always feel as if they are close to winning these suburban districts outside Philadelphia, but they are usually disappointed. The national Democrats just pulled their advertising in both districts. Republican Ryan Costello is clearly favored to defeat Democrat Manan Travedi in the open-seat 6th District race, and incumbent GOP Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick appears headed for another term against Democrat Kevin Strouse.

Utah 4th District: Safe Republican to Likely Republican

Your perception of this race depends on which partisan pollster you choose to listen to. A Democratic poll last week showed Democrat Doug Owens within three points of Republican Mia Love in this open-seat race. A Republican internal poll showed Love with a 47-28 lead, but she is under 50 percent and there is an unusual number of undecided voters. I suspect this race is closer to three points than it is to 19 points, but how close? The small degree of uncertainty here causes me to keep this race on the board and downgrade it to “Likely Republican,” but make no mistake, Love is still a heavy favorite to win.

Virginia 2nd District: Safe Republican; Removed from Ratings

There doesn’t seem to be any discernible evidence that Democrat Suzanne Patrick is going to oust incumbent Republican Scott Rigell. I am taking this one off the board.

Virginia 10th District: Likely Republican to Safe Republican; Removed from Ratings

National Democrats recently pulled advertising funding here to shore up Democrats in other races, which is bad news for Democrat John Foust. Republican candidate Barbara Comstock was always favored and now looks like a safe bet to head to Congress. This district, on the edge of the Washington metropolitan area, still appears to be a few years away from moving toward the Democrats.

West Virginia 1st District: Safe Republican; Removed from Ratings

Democratic challenger Glen Gainer says he is focusing on a grassroots effort rather than wasting precious funding on advertising. That’s probably the best spin he can put on it, but what that really means is the money isn’t there because he doesn’t have any chance to win. Republican incumbent David McKinley is a safe bet for reelection.

Election Projections: October 4, 2014

I have very few changes this week, but all of my rating changes are in New England, and they all favor the GOP. No races are moving from the Democratic column to the Republican column, but three are inching in the Republicans’ direction. Click here for the updated Ratings Chart.

Massachusetts Governor: Likely D to Leaning D; Watch List

Democrat Martha Coakley appears to be in danger of repeating the late fade she had in a special U.S. Senate election against Republican Scott Brown in 2009. A series of polls has shown her trailing or neck-and-neck with Republican challenger Charlie Baker. Given the state’s heavy Democratic lean, I am not prepared to call Baker the favorite, but given Coakley’s history, I am moving this race from “Likely Democratic” to “Leans Democratic” and placing it on the Watch List. If Ms. Coakley loses a second high-profile statewide race in one of the nation’s most liberal states, she should retire from politics.

New Hampshire U.S. Senate: Likely D to Leaning D

In the U.S. Senate race in New Hampshire, some recent polling has shown the aforementioned Scott Brown (R), the former Senator from Massachusetts, improving his standing against incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. I still think Shaheen is leading, but I am moving this race from “Likely Democratic” to “Leans Democratic.”

Maine 2nd District, U.S. House: Watch List

In the U.S. House, I am adding the race in Maine 2 to the Watch List. A recent Portland Press-Herald poll showed Republican Bruce Poliquin leading Democrat Emily Cain by 10 points. Given the fact that this district typically leans Democratic and that there has been very little public polling, my inclination is that this poll is probably off, but I am adding the race to the Watch List and seeking further information.

Current Picture

At this point, Republicans remain favored to pick up a net of eight U.S. House seats for a 242-193 majority and a net of six U.S. Senate seats for a 51-47 majority with two independents. (I count independent Senator Bernie Sanders as a Democrat due to the fact that he files on the Democratic and independent lines when running for election, and the fact that his political philosophy ensures that he will caucus with the Democrats in any case.)

It is also to be expected that if the Republicans do, in fact, secure 51 seats, the two true independents—Senator Angus King of Maine and, presuming he wins, Greg Orman of Kansas—will caucus with the Republicans, thereby giving the GOP a 53-47 organizational majority. It would make no sense for either of them to cast their lot with the minority party.

At this point, it still appears that Democrats are on course to pick up a net of two governorships, which would leave Republicans in charge of 27 governors’ mansions to the Democrats’ 23.