2010 Election Predictions – How we rank individual races
We are now in the thick of election season. Hawaii’s primary held last Saturday concludes 2010’s primary season, and we are now seeing polling released at an accelerated pace (Louisiana’s “everything else” primary will be next Saturday, October 2, and early voting concludes tomorrow). We presently are basing our analyses on a composite of polls conducted over the last 14 days. Next month, we will compress that “look back period” to 7 days, because as early voting begins in Ohio next week, voters will begin to make up their minds, and polls will start moving accordingly. Our rankings are based on the following criteria:
(1) Safe Democratic (dark blue on the map)/Safe Republican (dark red on the map) – either a candidate leads by 10 or more points, or a candidate has over 50% in polls;
(2) Lean Democratic (light blue on the map)/Lean Republican (light red on the map) – a candidate leads by 3-9 points;
(3) Tossup (yellow) – a candidate leads by less than 3 points;
(4) No data available/primary has not been held (gray) – In the Hawaii Senate race, polling data has not been publicly released, so we have nothing to analyze there.
(5) No Senate/gubernatorial race in 2010 for this state (black)
2010 Election Predictions – Senate Races
(9/24 projection: 52 Democrats/48 Republicans, or Republican gain of +7)
(9/9 and 9/15 projections: 54 Democrats/46 Republicans, or Republican gain of +5)
We have finally begun to see significant movement towards the Republicans in the Senate races. All GOP open seats are now either “safe Republican” or “leans Republican.” Also on the Republican side, the Ohio Senate race is now “Solid Republican” (from “Leans Republican”). For the first time in months, the Senate seat once held by President Obama has been moved from “tossup” to “leans Republican” – it doesn’t hurt that as time moves on, the Republican candidate’s misstatements about his military record become a distant memory. Plus, some political prognosticators believe that the Mayor’s race in Chicago next February is diverting attention and money that could be used to help the Democratic nominee. The big shocker, however, is that since the September 14 Wisconsin primary, 18 year Democratic incumbent Russ Feingold has seen his numbers nosedive to the point that in the last three polls taken post September 14, the Republican nominee leads with over 50% of the vote. Another shocker is that the special election in West Virginia to fill the seat of the late Robert Byrd has rapidly moved from the Democrats: currently, the popular two term Democratic governor only holds an anemic 47-45% poll lead over his Republican opponent.
While the general trend has recently been in the Republicans direction, Democrats have rebounded some in the coastal states. In California, 18 year incumbent Barbara Boxer’s (D-California) leads, while narrow, have been consistent and significant enough for us to move this race from “tossup” to “leans Democratic.” Similarly, 18 year incumbent Patty Murray (D-Washington) has rebounded in the polls and recently has polled above 50% each time, thus making her seat “Safe Democratic.” And in Delaware, unfavorable publicity from past statements Republican Christine O’Donnell made regarding masturbation and witchcraft have prevented her from getting the post primary bump she needs. Her Democratic opponent currently leads by an average of 54-40% in post primary polling.
We currently have two Democratic held seats (Nevada and West Virginia) that are “Tossups.” If the Republicans sweep both races, the GOP will have 50 seats – not enough by itself to overcome Vice President Biden’s tie breaking vote. That means the Republicans have to flip either California, Washington, Connecticut, New York (the seat Hillary Clinton once held), or Delaware to gain control of the Senate. Can this happen ? In Delaware, the huge lead the Democrat has built up could vanish in a second if the loser of the Republican primary, Mike Castle, decides to run as a write-in. He has until September 30 to decide, and is giving it some serious thought. In California, Barbara Boxer does lead in the polls, but she has remained below 50% (right now, her aggregate poll lead is 48-43%). New York has suddenly entered the radar ever since their September 14 primary. On the surface, incumbent Chuck Schumer and appointed incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand seem untouchable with 57-34 and 50-39% average poll leads. However, those leads are inflated by the fact that one pollster (Siena) is still using registered voters as the basis for its polling (we explain the significance of that here). If that poll is removed from the picture, Schumer’s lead is 55-36%, but Gllibrand only leads 47-42% – not exactly a confidence inspiring number in heavily Democratic New York. Meanwhile, in both Washington and Connecticut, the Democrat leads are less than 53%, which means that elevated GOP intensity could lead to an upset in those states.
In summary, a lot has happened since the September 14 primaries, and we expect to see a similar level of instability between now until Election Day.
2010 Election Predictions – Governor’s Races
(9/9, 9/15, and 9/24 projection: 34 Republicans, 16 Democrats, or Republican gain of +10)
Since our last analysis, three states have moved from “leans Republican” to “solid Republican”: Illinois, New Mexico, and Wisconsin. Maryland has moved back from “Leans Democratic” to “Tossup”, and since the September 14 primary, New Hampshire has moved from “Solid Democratic” to “Leans Democratic.” On the Democratic side, three states have moved towards their direction: California has moved from “Leans Republican” to “Tossup.” Georgia has moved from “Solid Republican” to “Leans Republican.” And Rhode Island has moved from “leans Democratic” to “Solid Democratic.”
Several things on the map are also worth noting: (1) In three states, Democratic leads in the polls are due to third party candidacies. In Colorado, the Republican and Constitution Party candidates are getting a combined 48% (as opposed to the Democrat ‘s 47%), and the Constitution Party candidate has continued to strengthen while the Republican nominee’s support continues to fade. In Massachusetts, the embattled Democratic incumbent leads in the polls with an anemic 42%, while the Republican + Independent total is 48%. Finally, in Rhode Island , the Democrat “leads” with 33%, while the Independent (a former Republican) and the Republican candidate have a combined vote of 47%, (2) Polling in New York has taken a sharp turn towards the Republicans, although the Republican trend hasn’t yet registered due to the Siena poll’s using a more Democratic-leaning sample of registered voters. Currently, the Democrat has an average lead in the polls of 52-36%; without the Siena poll, we’re looking at a more competitive 51-39% race.
2010 Election Predictions – Generic Congressional Vote
(9/24 poll composite: 47% Republican, 41.7% Democrat, or +5.3% Republican)
(9/15 poll composite: 47.3% Republican, 40.5% Democrat, or +6.8% Republican)
(9/9 poll composite: 48.4% Republican, 41.4% Democrat, or +7.0% Republican)
Though the poll numbers seem to show a weakening Republican preference, three polls (Reuters, POLITICO, and CBS News) taken recently show a tie race or, bizarrely, a Democratic lead in the generic vote. If we removed those outliers, we would actually have a 48.4-41.4% GOP preference for Congress.
Last week, we had noted that Democratic operatives had already written off this year’s elections. This feeling of “gloom and doom” continues, and now we see that 55 year Democratic incumbent John Dingell of Michigan (whose 66% Obama district was held by his father from 1932-1955) is urging donors to give as much as they legally can to his campaign. This coming from an incumbent whose toughest race in 55 years was his 59% re-election in the 1994 landslide.
To put the “Generic Congressional Vote” question in perspective, when Republicans retook the House (and Senate) in 1994, the popular vote in the 435 House districts was 52-45% Republican. If we were to split the undecideds equally between both parties, you would have a 52.7% Republican vote (we’re including the outlier polls in this analysis), which equates to a 229 seat Republican majority – a net gain of 50 Republicans, or 11 more than needed to regain control of the House. We also believe at this time that the 229 seat figure is a conservative estimate, since it doesn’t consider voter intensity, which has consistently favored the Republicans.
2010 Election Predictions – Individual House Races
(9/24: 244 Republicans/191 Democrats (+ 65 Republican, “Watch list” of 37 Democrats/2 Republicans)
(9/15: 243 Republicans/192 Democrats (+ 64 Republican, “Watch list” of 36 Democrats/2 Republicans)
(9/9: 247 Republicans/188 Democrats (+ 68 Republican, “Watch list” of 29 Democrats/2 Republicans)
One of the things we have repeatedly noted in our discussions of the “Obama plunge” and its effect on the fall elections is that actual poll results (and in the case of Washington state, “open primary” election results) take precedence over the theoretical criteria used to determine whether a seat is vulnerable. This past week, polls have been released for 28 House races. There has been movement between categories, but the bottom line has still been that big GOP gains are to be expected in the November elections.
What we saw was the following:
(1) Four Democrats moved to “safe” who were once on the watch list or were vulnerable:
(2) Two Democrats moved from the “watch list” to “vulnerable”, and vice versa;
(3) Three safe Democrats are now on the “watch list”:
(4) The universe of House races has expanded by two, as two Democrats in 66% Obama districts (Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and John Dingell of Michigan) have had weak poll numbers considering the Democratic tilt of the districts.
(4) In one of the bigger surprises of the week’s polls, 20 year Democratic incumbent Chet Edwards of Texas, despite a mostly conservative voting record in a 67% McCain district, trails in a recent poll by a whopping 36-55% and has thus been reclassified from “safe” to “vulnerable.”
A final note on the polls so far: we have cumulatively seen polls done on 43 Democratic held seats where the Democrat is behind in the polls. On average, these districts voted 51% for Obama, which means that these seats are “Ground Zero” for the “Obama plunge.” Similarly, we have seen poll results for an additional 33 Democratic held seats where Democrats lead but with less than 50% – Obama on average got 53% in these districts, and these seats are similarly vulnerable against the “Obama plunge.” These 76 (last week, it was 86) House seats alone can flip the House to Republican control. Additionally, there are 25 more vulnerable/”watch list” Democratic held seats where no polling has been done.