Now that Labor Day has passed, we are now in the midst of political season (although technically there is one more “primary date” on Tuesday).
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 Data (gray) – Either (1) The party’s nominee has not yet been determined, or (2) No publicly released polling data is available yet;
(5) No race in 2014 (black) – For those states not holding gubernatorial or Senate race this year;
Dashboard statistics (last 14 days)
Obama job approval: 53-43% Disapprove (was 52-43% Disapprove)
Congressional job approval: 75-10% Disapprove (was 73-9% Disapprove)
Generic congressional vote: 42-42% Republican (was 42-40% Democratic)
Direction of country: 66-24% wrong direction (was 65-26% wrong direction)
Obamacare approval: 53-43% Disapprove (no change since last poll)
Commentary: The environment remains toxic for Democrats at the “kick off” of political season, although the big GOP gains in the last (2010) midterm election limit the additional gains they’ll be able to make this fall.
Current: 55 Democrats, 45 Republicans
Polling average: 50 Republicans, 45 Democrats, 5 Tossups (was 48 Democrats, 47 Republicans, 3 Tossups)
Commentary: Now that we have polling data for all competitive states, the Democrats are projected to lose five seats (three open seats in Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia; as well as two incumbents in Alaska and Arkansas). And another five seats could swing either way (Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, and North Carolina). With Louisiana, it’s important to remember that the Senate race has nine candidates (three of them serious), and that race will likely go into a December 6 runoff.
It’s important to understand the atmospherics of the Democrats’ problems in the Senate. While Obama’s second term unpopularity certainly hasn’t helped, historical context is also important: “landslide classes” (i.e., those wave elections that bring an above average seat gain for a party) tend to sweep in weak candidates or candidates in politically unfavorable territory who otherwise would not have won. That is what the Democrats are faced with, since they picked up 10 seats after the 2008 election cycle. And in two seats (Georgia and Kentucky) where the GOP is playing defense, their poll numbers have improved lately.
There is one GOP wild card, however: Kansas incumbent Pat Roberts has gotten into political hot water for his seeming inattention to his home state. His narrowly surviving his primary was one danger signal. There is a now second one: his Democratic opponent has dropped out, leaving the field clear for an Independent who was also in the race. Given that the Independent has no discernable political ideology, he theoretically can pick up “anti-Roberts” votes that a Democratic candidate would not be able to get. So that seat COULD be n play; we don’t yet have recent polling to confirm or deny this assertion.
Current: 30 Republicans. 20 Democrats
Polling average: 28 Republicans, 18 Democrats, 4 Tossups (was 29 Republicans, 16 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, (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.
The last “primary date” is this upcoming Tuesday, when four states (Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island) will determine their party’s nominees. Louisiana’s primary will be held on November 4 (the same day that the other 49 states are holding elections).