We are now just over a week away from Election Day, and early voting is in full swing across the country (Louisiana has been early voting for four days, with some interesting results). The climate thus far has remained generally favorable towards the Republicans, despite “trouble spots” popping up here and there.
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: 53-44% Disapprove (was 52-44% Disapprove)
Congressional job approval: 78-12% Disapprove (was 75-13% Disapprove)
Generic congressional vote: 44-42% Republican (was 45-43% Republican)
Direction of country: 65-28% wrong direction (was 62-28% wrong direction)
Obamacare approval: 52-40% Disapprove (was 52-40% Disapprove)
Commentary: The environment remains toxic for Democrats as November 4 is now in sight, and it remains noteworthy that Republicans have kept their 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, 45 Democrats, 4 Tossups (was 51 Republicans, 46 Democrats, 3 Tossups)
Commentary: This past week was mildly favorable for Republicans. They have maintained leads in their “pickup” states, and for the first time, the New Hampshire Senate race has considerably tightened.
From a Senate control standpoint, we see the Republicans favored to pick up open Democratic seats in Iowa, Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia, while Democratic incumbents in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, and Louisiana remain in trouble.
Democrats remain in a tight race in North Carolina, and New Hampshire has in the last week moved into “tossup” territory. Given the state of these races, it would appear that the Republicans would have a 53-55 Senate majority on the night of November 4. Except that (1) the Louisiana race will almost certainly go into “overtime”, since TEA Party backed Rob Maness is taking away Republican votes from Congressman Bill Cassidy, (2) the Georgia Senate remains deadlocked, and Democrats have benefitted from a strong early vote – fortunately for the Republicans, Georgia requires that a victorious candidate receive 50% of the vote, and there is a Libertarian in the race, (3) the Kansas Senate race remains elusive for the Republicans, where the GOP incumbent is locked in a tight race against an Independent.
So even if all the seats mentioned above go Republican, the reality is, on Election Night, the GOP may end up with 50 seats if they don’t take either New Hampshire or North Carolina, and would have to wait until December 6 (the date of the Louisiana runoff) and/or January 6 (the date of the Georgia runoff) to get their Senate majority. And to add to the confusion, Congress convenes on January 3.
There is one seat that is pretty much off the table for Republicans: the open seat in Michigan, given that polls have steadily shown an expanding margin for the Democratic candidate.
So at this point in time, the GOP is favored to win a Senate majority, but with numerous variables and softening races, it’s not certain that that majority will be clinched on November 4.
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.
This past week showed mixed results, with ratings changes in five states: Republicans are seeing the Kansas race slip into “undecided” territory again, and Democrats’ coming home in Hawaii and Rhode Island are why we’ve changed the ratings for these races to “Solid Democrat.” At the same time, there is a GOP breeze blowing in New England: in New Hampshire, the Senate race (which is now a tossup) has been echoed by the Governor’s race going from “solid Democrat” to “leans Democrat.” And more significantly, polls have been moving in the GOP direction in the Massachusetts Governor’s race, where the same Democratic candidate (Martha Coakley) who was upset by Scott Brown in 2010 is now trailing her Republican opponent.
As this article is being written, the number of those who have early voted has quadrupled again, from 1.7 to 6.7 million votes. The news is mixed, depending on the state. Republicans have seen strong numbers from California, Colorado, Florida, and Iowa (where a former 10 point Democratic lead is now even), while in the Deep South, Democrats have been successful with mobilizing blacks to early vote in Georgia, Louisiana, and North Carolina. Will this activity produce Democratic Senate victories in those Southern states ? For that to happen, the Democrats have to get a respectable share of the white vote, which is by no means certain this year.