As we inch closer to Election Day (and, in the case of Louisiana, the “kickoff” of early voting in 12 days), there was minimal movement this past week; what movement there was happened in the governor’s races, where there was a perceptible drift towards Republicans in several statehouses.
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: 52-44% Disapprove (was 53-44% Disapprove)
Congressional job approval: 77-12% Disapprove (was 78-9% Disapprove)
Generic congressional vote: 43-43% tie (was 42-41% Democratic)
Direction of country: 63-30% wrong direction (was 64-28% wrong direction)
Obamacare approval: 51-38% Disapprove (was 50-36% Disapprove)
Commentary: The environment remains toxic for Democrats in the midst of political season, and voters are making up their minds and/or voting as we speak. Going forward, it all comes down to voter intensity.
Current: 55 Democrats, 45 Republicans
Polling average: 52 Republicans, 46 Democrats, 2 Tossups (was 52 Republicans, 46 Democrats, 2 Tossups)
Commentary: This past week, there was no perceptible change in Senate ratings: the GOP remains strongly favored to pick up 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). However, polls within the last few days are showing that Sen.Robers has some signs of life in him: if additional polling shows a trend, we will reclassify this race.
The one seat that has not yet moved the Republicans’ way is North Carolina, where Sen. Kay Hagan retains a slight lead. Of all vulnerable Democratic incumbents, Sen. Hagan happens to live in a state where Obama has not seen substantial declines in his popularity relative to his national approval ratings. When this electoral reality is combined with the unpopularity of the Republican legislature (of which her opponent was the House speaker), the Democratic incumbent has a bit of a “lifeline.”
Michigan and New Hampshire are not totally out of reach, but are a source of frustration to Republicans. In Michigan, the lack of any movement towards the Republicans in the Senate race (while the incumbent Republican governor is pulling ahead) has caused the Republicans to cancel last minute ad buys for their candidate. In New Hampshire, the race has remained in the 5-7% range in favor of the Democratic incumbent, and unless there is movement in the next couple of weeks, may be out of reach for Republicans.
Taken together, we are looking at a likely, but not overwhelming GOP majority (without favorable movement in New Hampshire of Michigan, 54 seems to be the ceiling) in January.
Current: 30 Republicans. 20 Democrats
Polling average: 25 Republicans, 15 Democrats, 10 Tossups (was 25 Republicans, 16 Democrats, 9 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 several changes to the statehouse races that suggest a Republican breeze is blowing: embattled GOP incumbents in Georgia and Kansas saw movement in their direction, and Democrats saw the Maryland race slip from “solid Democrat” to “lean Democrat.” About the only good news for the Democrats is that the Connecticut race (which they are defending) has been reclassified from “leans Republican” to “Tossup.”
(Updated 10/10 AM) Even though we are in election season, early/absentee voting is actually underway in 41states (early voting in Louisiana begins Tuesday October 21), and as of today, 439K have early/absentee voted, with over 109K of that coming from Iowa (which has a critical Senate contest), and an additional 260K coming from Florida.