Election Day is two days away, and this looks like a Republican year. How Republican of a year it will be is the question on table, as there are some “trouble spots” for the Republicans which haven’t entirely gone away in the closing days of the 2014 election cycle.
Since Election Day is two days away, we have changed our scorecard to examine only those races where there has been polling since the last (October 25) scorecard. But just like before, we take the average of those polls for the last seven days, and given those averages, here are how we rate the various races:
(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 (or appears to be trending that way);
(2) Lean Democratic or lean Republican (light blue/red) – A candidate has a 3-9 point lead in the polls (or appears to be trending that way);
(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 7 days)
Obama job approval: 53-43% Disapprove (was 53-44% Disapprove)
Congressional job approval: 79-13% Disapprove (was 78-12% Disapprove)
Generic congressional vote: 47-44% Republican (was 44-42% Republican)
Direction of country: 65-28% wrong direction (was 65-28% wrong direction)
Obamacare approval: 54-39% Disapprove (was 52-40% Disapprove)
Commentary: The environment remains toxic for Democrats, and it doesn’t help that the GOP has widened its lead on the generic Congressional ballot from 44-42% to 47-44%. 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, 45 Democrats, 4 Tossups)
Commentary: This past week was mildly favorable for Republicans. They have maintained their leads in their “pickup” states, and there has been a late tightening in the Senate race in Virginia.
From a Senate control standpoint, here’s what we see happening:
(1) DEMOCRATIC OPEN SEATS – The GOP is poised to win vacant seats in Iowa (a last minute poll showed the Republican up 51-44%), Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia. Only Michigan has not materialized as a GOP pickup, despite early GOP hopes. That brings the Republicans to 49 seats.
(2) DEMOCRATIC INCUMBENTS – Democratic incumbents in Alaska, Arkansas, and Colorado are all in trouble: in late polling, they have not been able to move towards the crucial 50% mark. There are also two tight races in North Carolina and New Hampshire. North Carolina has remained neck and neck (and is complicated by a Libertarian’s being on the ballot), while New Hampshire has moved towards a competitive race, although there has not been a consistent series of polls showing the Republican with a lead. Given the state of these races, the Republicans are looking at 52-54 seats.
(3) GOP SEATS – (UPDATED 11/2 AM) In general, the GOP has not had to play defense this election cycle with its incumbents. There are two exceptions, however: (1) The Republican incumbent in Georgia decided to retire, and the Democrats recruited a formidable candidate, who happens to be the daughter of a Democrat (Sam Nunn) who held this seat from 1973 to 1997. However, Georgia requires that a victorious candidate get 50% of the vote to be elected, so this race will likely go into a January 6 runoff – three days after Congress has convened; (2) in Kansas, GOP incumbent Pat Roberts got caught admitting that he didn’t live in his home state anymore, and the “perfect storm” of a closely contested primary, an Independent opponent, and the Democratic candidate’s withdrawal have conspired put him in political jeopardy. Although he may get some last minute benefit from his opponent’s referring to Bob Dole (who represented Kansas for decades in Congress) as being part of a “clown car.” So depending on how these races go, the GOP Senate majority will be anywhere from 50 to 54 seats.
(4) LOUISIANA – We did not include Louisiana in any of the preceding categories because it’s nearly universally assumed that this race will go to a runoff on December 6. Senator Mary Landrieu has never won re-election with more than 52% of the vote, and the baggage of the Obama administration (which, incidentally, began the day she started her third Senate term) has not helped her any, nor have recent remarks suggesting Louisianians were racist and sexist. Still, her campaign has aggressively mobilized black voters to vote early, although a detailed examination of the data reveals that these are mostly “chronic” voters who would likely have voted in November anyway. So depending on the outcome of the Louisiana race, we’re looking at a 50-55 seat GOP Senate majority.
Current: 30 Republicans. 20 Democrats
Polling average: 25 Republicans, 15 Democrats, 10 Tossups (was 27 Republicans, 15 Democrats, 8 Tossups)
Commentary: Considering that the GOP had a substantial number of seats it had to defend this election cycle, the expectation was that the GOP would be lucky to minimize its losses. That appears to be happening right now, despite the fact that eight statehouses are still too close to call. Here’s how those races are looking:
(1) DEMOCRATIC OPEN SEATS – The GOP is likely to take the Arkansas and Massachusetts governor’s chairs. In Arkansas, the unpopularity of the Obama administration has dragged down Democratic candidates for Senate and Governor, while in Massachusetts, the same Democratic candidate (Attorney General Martha Coakley) who managed to blow a seemingly easy Senate race in 2010 appears to be doing the same in the Governor’s race.
(2) DEMOCRATIC INCUMBENTS – Democratic incumbents in Colorado, Connecticut, and Illinois are facing tough re-election races, and the outcome of these races will tell a story about the strength of the Republican wave, since all three states voted for Obama both in 2008 and 2012. Colorado is a particularly interesting study, because the Democrats have been dominant for a decade, until gun control legislation passed in 2013 led to the recall of two Democratic state senators in districts where Barack Obama received more than 55% of the vote.
(3) REPUBLICAN INCUMBENTS – Unlike the Senate races, the GOP has seven incumbents whose careers are on the line Tuesday. While the governors of Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin are likely on “safe ground” now according to recent polling, GOP incumbents in Alaska (where the Democratic candidate dropped out, leaving an Independent as the sole opponent), Florida, Kansas, and Maine could conceivably lose. As before, the strength of any GOP “wave” may bail one or more of these incumbents out, although it’s possible that the Georgia governor’s race may go into a runoff, given that Georgia requires its candidates to get 50% of the vote to be elected.
Beyond these race, if there is a strong GOP wave, there are three other races which could tip towards the Republicans on Election Day: Democratic incumbents in New Hampshire and Oregon have seen their leads slip in recent days, and the Democratic nominee is not securely ahead in Rhode Island.
As this article is being written, the number of those who have early voted has doubled again, from 6.7 to 16.6 million votes. Generally, the numbers favor the GOP, while in the Deep South, Democrats have been successful with mobilizing blacks to early vote in Georgia, Louisiana, and North Carolina. It all comes down to intensity now.