As we inch closer to Election Day (and, in the case of Louisiana, the “kickoff” of early voting in 19 days), we see mixed messages, as several governor’s races have tightened on the GOP side, while the GOP has seen continued movement in the US Senate races.
Given the massive volume of polling data, plus the fact that pollsters have varying levels of accuracy, we gather data on federal, statewide, and (sometimes) Congressional races and take the average of those polls for the last two weeks (this “look back” will eventually become a week when we get close to Election Day). Once we get the averages, this is how we rate each race:
(1) Safe Democratic or safe Republican (dark blue/red) – A candidate either has a polling average of at least 50% and/or a 10 point lead in the polls;
(2) Lean Democratic or lean Republican (light blue/red) – A candidate has a 3-9 point lead in the polls;
(3) Tossup (yellow) – A candidate’s lead is less than 3 points in the polls;
(4) No race in 2014 (black) – For those states not holding gubernatorial or Senate race this year;
Dashboard statistics (last 14 days)
Obama job approval: 53-44% Disapprove (was 53-43% Disapprove)
Congressional job approval: 78-9% Disapprove (was 67-20% Disapprove)
Generic congressional vote: 42-41% Democratic (was 44-41% Republican)
Direction of country: 64-28% wrong direction (was 62-26% wrong direction)
Obamacare approval: 50-36% Disapprove (was 53-43% Disapprove)
Commentary: The environment remains toxic for Democrats in the midst of political season, and it is right about now that voters begin making up their minds, particularly with early/absentee voting underway in 16 states. Going forward, it all comes down to voter intensity.
Current: 55 Democrats, 45 Republicans
Polling average: 52 Republicans, 46 Democrats, 2 Tossups (was 50 Republicans, 47 Democrats, 3 Tossups)
Commentary: This past week, polling in Iowa and Colorado has been shifting enough towards the Republicans for us to reclassify these seats tp “leans Republican.” Right now, the GOP remains strongly favored to pick up the open Democratic seats in Iowa, Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia. The GOP is also poised to knock off Democratic incumbents in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, and Louisiana. Taken together, this would put the GOP at a 53 seat majority, except that Kansas Republican Pat Roberts is trailing in the polls – against an Independent (the Democratic candidate dropped out).
There are two more seats that have moved in the direction of the GOP. In North Carolina, freshman Democrat incumbent Kay Hagan’s lead has softened enough for us to move this seat from “Leans Democratic” to “Tossup.” And in Minnesota, freshman Democratic incumbent Al Franken has seen a slight weakening of his numbers – enough for us to reclassify this seat as “Leans Democrat.”
And the GOP theoretically has two additional pickup opportunities: an open Democratic seat in Michigan leans Democratic, but the average poll lead for the Democratic candidate has consistently been around five points. And in New Hampshire, freshman Democrat Jeanne Shaheen maintains modest leads in most polls, although you have a case of an “outlier poll” every week showing the race tied – if there are any additional polls which show this a tight race, we will reclassify this race to “Tossup”, although we have not yet seen any polls that would allow us to do so.
Taken together, we are looking at a 49-56 Republican Senate in January at this point in time.
Current: 30 Republicans. 20 Democrats
Polling average: 25 Republicans, 16 Democrats, 9 Tossups (was 28 Republicans, 17 Democrats, 5 Tossups)
Commentary: Governorships are one area where the GOP is not (nor should they be) anticipating any gains. There are several reasons for this: (1) their huge success in 2010 means those same governors’ chairs must be defended – and some of those chairs are in less favorable states, and (2) several GOP incumbents have been controversial in office. What helps the GOP, however, is that there are several Democratic governors who are term limited, and there are therefore some GOP pickup opportunities.
There were quite a few changes to the statehouse races that were not especially favorable towards the GOP, although it’s more technically correct to say that the number of “Tossup” races nearly doubled, from 5 to 9 governors. GOP incumbents in Florida and Georgia saw their numbers soften enough to make these tossup races. Similarly, the race in heavily Democratic Illinois has tightened as well.
However, the Democrats saw their numbers tighten in Massachusetts, which despite its Democratic reputation, has elected Republican governors for 16 of the last 24 years. And the Democratic nominee is the same person who blew a “safe” Senate race in 2010 against former Republican Senator Scott Brown. Additionally, Republican incumbent Scott Walker has, for the first time, seen his poll numbers reach the 50% mark in a race that was neck and neck throughout the summer.
Even though we are in election season, early/absentee voting is actually underway in 16 states, with some of those states’ (Iowa, North Carolina, and South Dakota) having special importance because of the contested Senate races going on. As of today, 67K have early/absentee voted, with over 50K of that coming from Iowa (which has a critical Senate contest) alone.