2010 Election Predictions – How we rank individual races
Now that “Super Tuesday II” has come and gone, all but Hawaii have chosen their Congressional nominees (Louisiana’s “everything else” primary will be on Saturday, October 2, and early voting starts this Saturday). We are now basing our analyses on a composite of polls conducted over the last 14 days. Next month, we will compress this “look back period” to 7 days, since the tempo of campaigning will pick up even more in the last few weeks. 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 general, we don’t analyze statewide polls until its primary has been conducted. However, since pollsters have been releasing multiple polls with different Democratic vs Republican matchups for states that have not held their primaries, we will modify this rule as follows: if at least one of the major parties has a clear front runner in a contested primary, we will use the various poll matchups to get a sense of how a Senate/Governor race is leaning and, based on that composite of polls in the last 14 days, will assess which party is ahead.
(5) No Senate/gubernatorial race in 2010 for this state (black)
2010 Election Predictions – Senate Races
(9/1, 9/9, and 9/15 projections: 54 Democrats, 46 Republicans, or Republican gain of +5)
Since our last analysis, we are now able to move both the Florida and North Carolina Senate races to “Solid Republican” (from “leans Republican”), as a series of recent polls shows the Republican candidate in each state with double digit leads – Democrats in Florida are steadily deserting Independent Charlie Crist for the Democratic nominee, as we had projected. We also have polling data for Vermont which, to no one’s surprise, is initially classified as “Solid Democratic.” Finally, two recent polls in Washington put the Democratic Senate incumbent in a comfortable lead, so we are moving that race from “Tossup” to “leans Democratic” – for now.
There are six things we’ve noticed in the past week with regards to Senate races: (1) all open Republican seats have become either “Leans Republican” or “Solid Republican”; (2) we have a collection of five Democratic seats (California, Delaware, Illinois, Nevada, and Wisconsin) that the Republicans must go “5 for 5” to take control of the Senate; (3) as a “Plan B” (i.e., the Republicans fail to sweep all five races), the Republicans need to make one or more of these seats competitive soon: Connecticut, New York (the Gillibrand seat) Washington, or West Virginia; (4) once Hawaii holds its primary this Saturday, we expect polling to show that race safely in the Democratic corner; (5) because the presumably “more electable” Republican in Delaware was upset by newcomer Christine O’Donnell, we believe that she has a window of a couple of weeks to make a favorable impression against the Democrat, as she can not count on assistance from her embittered primary rival; (6) in West Virginia, a recent poll showed Democratic Governor Joe Manchin in the lead, but only by a 50-45% – hardly impressive for a two term incumbent Governor.
2010 Election Predictions – Governor’s Races
(9/1, 9/9, and 9/15 projection: 34 Republicans, 16 Democrats, or Republican gain of +10)
Since our last analysis, there have been four changes. Georgia has moved to “Solid Republican” from “Leans Republican.” Oregon has moved from “Tossup” to “Leans Republican.” Connecticut has moved from “Solid Democratic” to “Leans Democratic.” Finally, Vermont enters our rankings as a tossup.
Two things on the map are also worth noting: (1) In two states, Democratic leads in the polls are due to third party candidacies. In Colorado, the Republican and Constitution Party candidates are getting a combined 46% (as opposed to the Democrat ‘s 46%), and the Constitution Party candidate has recently begun to eclipse the Republican nominee. In Massachusetts, the embattled Democratic incumbent leads in the polls with an anemic 42%, while the Republican + Independent total is 51%; (2) the unpopularity of Senator Harry Reid is curiously manifesting itself in the Governor’s race in Nevada, where his son Rory (the Democratic nominee) trails by a whopping 34-57%
2010 Election Predictions – Generic Congressional Vote
(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)
(9/1 poll composite: 46.6% Republican, 41.8% Democrat, or +4.9% Republican)
Though the poll numbers seem to show a weakening Republican preference, it is due to a recent CBS News poll showing only a 40-38% GOP preference. If we removed that poll, as well as the bizarre (and contradictory) poll on September 8 by Gallup showing a 46-46% tie, we would actually have a 48.2-40.1% GOP preference for Congress.
Last week, we had noted that the Democrats were talking about a “political triage” to save their most vulnerable incumbents. Recently, POLITICO quoted a long time Democrat as describing this year’s elections as “gone”, while adding that “He (President Obama) cannot save 2010….He must now concentrate on saving 2012. But the biggest fear of some of those close to him is that he might not really want to go on in 2012, that he might not really care….” Such talk coming from a prominent Democratic operative is bizarre, with elections still about two months away (although in some states, early voting will commence in a few weeks).
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 53.4% Republican vote (we’re including the CBS and Gallup numbers in this analysis), which equates to a 232 seat Republican majority – a net gain of 53 Republicans, or 14 more than needed to regain control of the House. We also believe at this time that the 232 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
(9/15: 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)
(9/1: 250 Republicans/185 Democrats (+ 71 Republican, “Watch list” of 28 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 27 House races. Though the numbers above would seem to signify a continued Democratic renaissance, the truth is actually the opposite. For one thing, the Democrats, realizing the P.R. value of releasing poll results, have begun releasing poll results whenever and wherever possible that show their incumbents in the most favorable light. In the absence of contradictory polling, we will use their numbers.
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 to the “watch list” who were once safe;
(3) Six vulnerable or safe Democrats are now on the “watch list”:
(4) In one of the bigger surprises of the week’s polls, “safe” Democrat David Price represents a district in North Carolina that voted 62% for Obama and contains a significant population of government employees and PhDs. A recent poll released by Action Solutions shows him trailing 47-46% – curiously, the last tough race he had was when he was narrowly upset in the 1994 GOP landslide. As elections analyst Sean Trende noted: “…The NC-04 poll is especially jarring. Price was one of the surprise losers in 1994, but the district was redrawn by Democrats in 2002, and it gave John Kerry 55 percent of the vote and Barack Obama 62 percent of the vote. Again, campaign polls tend to show candidates at their best, so Price is probably somewhere right above 50 percent. But he should really be close to 60 percent, even in this environment…”
(5) We have yet another addition to the “Congressmen behaving badly”: 18 year incumbent Sanford Bishop (D-Georgia) was alleged to have given foundation scholarships to family members – we therefore are reclassifying his seat to “vulnerable” from “watch list.”
A final note on the polls so far: we have cumulatively seen polls done on 33 Democratic held seats where the Democrat is behind in the polls. On average, these districts voted 52% for Obama, which means that these seats are “Ground Zero” for the “Obama plunge.” Similarly, we have seen poll results for an additional 53 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 86 (last week, it was 63) House seats alone can flip the House to Republican control. Additionally, there are 29 more vulnerable/”watch list” Democratic held seats where no polling has been done. Finally, of those seats we have called “safe” for now, 11 Democrats are at 50-52% in the polls. Heavy GOP turnout could easily flip these seats to the GOP. In other words, you could conceivably have 126 Democratic held House seats in play when all is said and done.