2010 Elections, 10/14 edition – House/Senate/Governors polls

2010 Election Predictions – How we rank individual races

In 41 states, absentee voting is underway, while in person voting is underway in 18 states ((UPDATED 10/16 AM) in person voting in Louisiana commences this Tuesday, October 19). In other words, any campaign that isn’t in the midst of get out the (early) vote efforts isn’t a campaign that is well prepared. As we mentioned last week, we are now making calls on races based on a composite of polls conducted over the last 7 days. 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

Senate Projections

October 14 projection:   53/47 Democratic, +6 Republican
October 7 projection:    50/50 Democratic, +9 Republican
September 30 projection: 53/47 Democratic, +6 Republican

On the surface, it would appear that polling conducted this past week would contribute to the narrative that “Democrats are surging.” However, the details tell a different story. For one thing, the “gains” by the Democrats are due to Senate races in Washington, West Virginia, and Nevada moving from “leans Republican” to “tossup.” Each of those states has a unique story to tell. In Nevada (where in person early voting is about to start), 4/6 of polls taken show the Republican challenger Sharron Angle ahead of Harry Reid; overall, the average of polls taken there is 46-46%. In Washington state (Democrats lead by an average of 47-45%), you have a poll taken by the Elway Group that used a sample more Democratic than the 2008 voter population; accordingly, that one poll shows Democratic incumbent Patty Murray with a 51-38% lead. And in West Virginia, the Republicans still have an average lead of 47-46% after a disastrous week where a Republican memo requesting that actors in a Raese ad have a “hicky blue collar” appearance was leaked, which the Democrats promptly publicized, while also noting in new ads that Raese’s wife isn’t registered to vote in West Virginia. If additional polling shows a further trend back towards Manchin, then Raese’s people will have reason to worry, particularly since in person voting is about to commence there.

In addition to the reclassifications above, we are moving Alaska to “tossup” because the Republican incumbent who lost in the primary is running as a write in and is neck and neck in the polls; the Democrat in that race trails with 26%. And in Kentucky and New Hampshire, we are moving those races from “safe Republican” to “leans Republican” – the few polls conducted in those states showed a narrowing lead for the GOP candidates.

Other than those races, however, there has been little movement in the battle for the Senate, other than the Democrats reducing their ad buys in an open Republican seat in Missouri,  in yet another sign that offensive opportunities are rapidly vanishing for them. So while Democrats are engaged in a last ditch defense in a handful of Senate races, we believe that the floor for the Republicans is 47 seats, with four additional seats (Illinois, Nevada, Washington, and West Virginia) which could easily flip to the Republicans in a “wave election” like this one. And while four additional Democratic held seats in California, Connecticut, Delaware, and New York are probably out of reach for the Republicans, there is still a “window of opportunity” of one to two more weeks. And even then, we believe there are several surprises waiting for us on Election Night.

2010 Election Predictions – Governor’s Races

Governor Projections

October 14 projection:   33/17 Republican, +9 Republican
October 7 projection:    33/17 Republican, +9 Republican
September 30 projection: 32/18 Republican, +8 Republican

In the aggregate, the numbers remained unchanged, but we reclassified six individual governor’s races.  New Mexico moved back to “solid Republican” from last week’s “leans Republican.” In Illinois, what was a tossup race is now “leans Republican.” And the governor’s races in Minnesota and Florida moved back to “tossup” status from “leans Democratic” and “leans Republican”, respectively. Democrats also got a little bit of good news when Maine and Oregon moved back to “tossup” from “solid Republican” and “leans Republican.”

In addition to the fact that in the aggregate, there was no change in the ratings, we also believe that there is not enough data to paint a complete picture, since we have not seem any data in governor’s races like California and Massachusetts. We are especially interested in California, because of two conflicting game changing events: (1) last week’s revelations that Republican Meg Whitman employed an illegal alien (albeit one who used her sister’s social security number), and (2) a subsequent revelation that one of Jerry Brown’s aides suggested that Brown refer to Meg Whitman as a “whore” for allegedly cutting a deal with state employee unions over their pensions.

So while the data currently points to GOP dominance in the statehouses, we believe that there are still a few races which will surprise us between now and election day. And, unlike the Senate races, we see several Republican held statehouses (like Florida, California, and Minnesota) where the Republicans aren’t guaranteed to hold these open seats. It all comes down to the strength of the Republican wave.

2010 Election Predictions – Generic Congressional Vote

October 14 projection:   48.8-41.2% Republican, +7.6% Republican
October 7 projection:    48.4-41.7% Republican, +6.7% Republican
September 30 projection: 47.1-42.1% Republican, +5.0% Republican

While the inevitable “back and forth” occurring with the Senate and Governor’s races suggests a Democratic “comeback” (or depending on your point of view, a dissipation of the Republican wave) the Generic Congressional vote flatly contradicts those conclusions. This past week, the gap between those desiring a Republican candidate and those wanting a Democratic candidate widened again, to the point that Republicans now have an 8 point lead. And for the second week in a row, Gallup released additional polling showing astonishing double digit leads for generic Republican candidates when looking at more motivated voters.

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 53.8% Republican vote, which equates to a 234 seat Republican majority – a net gain of 55 Republicans, or 16 more than needed to regain control of the House. We also believe at this time that the 234 seat figure is a conservative estimate, since it doesn’t consider voter intensity, which has consistently favored the Republicans this election cycle. And in the next section, we will point to specific races that confirm our belief that there are even larger GOP House gains that may materialize on Election Night.

2010 Election Predictions – Individual House Races

October 14 projection: 251/184 Republican, +72 Republican (32/3 Democratic “watch list”)
October 7 projection: 251/184 Republican, +72 Republican (32/3 Democratic “watch list”)
September 30 projection: 244/191 Republican, +65 Republican (37/2 Democratic “watch list”)

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.

In a previous paragraph, we had noted that the Republican edge in the “generic ballot” question grew yet again to a 49-41% GOP preference. This decided Republican preference was confirmed and even amplified in last week’s polling of 26 House districts which, on the surface, showed no change in the projections. However, the details reveal some alarming findings for Congressional Democrats with less than three weeks until Election Day. We had mentioned last week that several supposedly “safe Democratic” seats were found to be more competitive than previously thought. In one of those seats in Michigan, the bad news got even worse, when it was revealed that 55 year incumbent John Dingell (D-Michigan) actually trails his opponent 40-44% in a district that voted 66-32% for Barack Obama and that only once (in 1994) gave the incumbent less than 60% of the vote.

In addition to entrenched Democratic incumbents’ facing competitive races for the first time in years, we have also learned that Washington Democrats are pulling out of more districts. Last week, they pulled out of six Democratic held seats. This week, two more (in this case, freshmen) Democrats received the “financial death penalty”: Steve Driehaus of Ohio and Kathy Dahlkemper of Pennsylvania. And Democrats also decided to pull out of a Democratic held open seat in western Tennessee. Altogether, nine Democratic held seats have been conceded to the Republicans.

Finally, we have a new member to add to the list of “Congressmen behaving badly” – Charlie Wilson (D-Ohio). Even though his voting record landed him on the list of vulnerable Democrats early on, abuse allegations from an ex-spouse were released today. These allegations, though two decades old, are certainly not helpful coming out this close to the election.

We would like to reiterate that in various analyses performed on the House races, there has been little detailed data analysis to enable voters to appreciate the size of possible Republican gains. We know for a fact that in polls released in the past two weeks, 38 Democratic held seats are likely to flip to the Republicans. Additionally, polls conducted in September or before show 19 more Democratic seats likely to flip. While that 57 seat GOP gain ought to, by itself, be alarming to Democrats, the fact remains that in 65 additional Democratic held seats, we have not seen any poll data released.