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
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
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.