Decision 2014 – JMCEL scorecard as of October 18
At this stage in the game, Election Day is in sight, and early voting is in full swing (early voting in Louisiana starts in three days). There were mixed messages sent by the voters, and several candidates received unfavorable publicity which may or may not sink their campaigns.
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 52-44% Disapprove)
Congressional job approval: 75-13% Disapprove (was 77-12% Disapprove)
Generic congressional vote: 45-43% Republican (was 43-43% tie)
Direction of country: 62-28% wrong direction (was 63-30% wrong direction)
Obamacare approval: 52-40% Disapprove (was 51-38% Disapprove)
Commentary: The environment remains toxic for Democrats as the end of political season is sight, and it’s particularly noteworthy that Republicans have opened up a two point lead in the generic Congressional vote (and that the Democrats have not exceeded 43% for the two months we have been analyzing this metric). Going forward, it all comes down to voter intensity.
Current: 55 Democrats, 45 Republicans
Polling average: 51 Republicans, 46 Democrats, 3 Tossups (was 52 Republicans, 46 Democrats, 2 Tossups)
Commentary: This past week was mildly favorable for Republicans. They have maintained leads in their “pickup” states, and in Kansas, an embattled incumbent is seeing poll leads for the first time since the Democrat dropped out of the race in September (he is facing an Independent in November).
This was also the “week of the blunder”: the “Obama question” was asked to Democratic Senate candidates in Georgia and Kentucky. In Kentucky, evasive statements from the Democratic nominee about this subject has damaged her chances (and, in fact, the Democrats have pulled the plug on her campaign), while in Georgia, the Democratic candidate took notice and openly stated her support for Obama. Is this a smart move? Even though Georgia has consistently voted Republican (with one exception) in every election after 1980, there is a noticeable (and growing) Democratic vote base in the Atlanta metropolitan area, and Barack Obama was competitive there both in 2008 and 2012. So this kind of straightforward answer may help with turnout efforts. And it doesn’t hurt that Democrats have been running ads about remarks the Republican nominee has made supporting outsourcing.
When analyzing the possible depth of the GOP “wave”, you have to look at pickup opportunities by ease of pickup. Open seats in Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia are pretty much “gimmes”, while an open seat in Iowa still favors the Republicans, and early voting has been steadily trending in the Republican direction. The next “tier” includes Democratic incumbents who are trailing in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, and Louisiana (although the Louisiana race will likely not be resolved until December 6).
It is the next two tiers that will determine how successful of a night the Republicans will have. North Carolina remains a tossup, but there are actually a couple of polls showing a small lead for the Republican candidate (in person early voting commences there in five days). And in the last week, two polls in New Hampshire show a race that is in the 1-2 point range.
If all these races were to swing towards the Republicans, they would have a 55 seat Senate majority in January, although the Georgia and Kansas races are causing some heartburn. And in Georgia’s case, if no one receives 50% of the vote, that race will go into a runoff on January 6 – three days after Congress is sworn in.
At this point in time, there is one open seat race that has not moved the Republicans’ way – Michigan. The polling averages since September have shown at least a 5 point lead for the Democratic candidate, and no trend has developed thus far for the Republicans. And it doesn’t help that Washington Republicans have cancelled last minute ad buys there.
Taken together, we are looking at a 50-54 seat Republican majority on Election night, and if a “November sweep” were to be followed-up with Republicans wins in Georgia and Louisiana over the Christmas holidays, they would have a 55 seat majority.
Current: 30 Republicans. 20 Democrats
Polling average: 25 Republicans, 16 Democrats, 9 Tossups (was 25 Republicans, 15 Democrats, 10 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.
This past week showed mixed results, with ratings changes in six states: Republicans are seeing leads in the Kansas Governor’s race for the first time, so we have changed our rating to “leans Republican.” The same has happened in an open GOP held seat in Arizona. Democrats also saw favorable trends in the Hawaii race (which is now “leans Democratic”), and GOP incumbents in Georgia and Wisconsin saw their races tighten up again, so these races are now “undecided.”
The “week of the blunder” even affected two governor’s races, and could have the potential to change the trajectory of those races. In Oregon, questions recently arose about whether the First Lady (who has a private consulting firm) misused her influence with the governor. And in Florida, a debate was delayed for several minutes because the Republican governor refused to let his Democratic opponent being a small fan to the podium.
As of the time this article is being written, the number of those who have early voted has quadrupled from 439K to 1.7 million votes. The news generally favors the Republicans (particularly in Colorado, Florida, and Iowa), but Democrats have also been making gains in Georgia. We will have a clearer picture next week, when early voting will be happening in nearly every state allowing it.