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.