Swing State Pres

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Senate Not An Easy "Hold" for Democrats in 2014 (October 27, 2013)

The Republicans’ dream scenario is this:  hold the House in 2014, win the Senate in 2014, and take the Presidency in 2016.  And even with the backlash from the government shutdown disproportionately falling on Republicans…even with a growing Hispanic population that is increasingly Democratic…it is not as far-fetched a dream as you might think.  In fact, it is alarmingly possible.

With Election Day 2014 roughly a year away, this is the first of several posts over the next month that will take the latest look at the Senate, the House, the GOP Presidential field, the Democratic field and the 2016 race itself.   First up, the Senate, and it’s simply not as safe as you might think.

With the recent election of Cory Booker as the Democratic Senator from New Jersey (replacing a Republican appointee who in turn had replaced the late Democrat Fran Lautenberg), the Dems hold a commanding 55-45 margin in the Senate (including the two independents that sit with the Democrats in caucus).  Based on my analysis of recent polling, the following chart summarizes where we stand.  (Note that most of the Senate polling has been conducted by Public Policy Polling.)

Democrats Total
52
Dem Not Up
34
Dem Solid
11
Dem Lean
4
Dem Tossup
3
Rep Tossup
2
Rep Lean
3
Rep Solid
12
Rep Not Up
31
Republicans Total
48

The Democrats have 34 incumbents not up for election, and 11 more races that will almost surely stay blue in 2014, for a total of 45 “in the bag.”  The Republicans have 31 holdovers and 12 certain red wins, adding up to 43 solid red.  So the real battle for control of the Senate will come among 12 “battleground” contests.  Republicans have to win 8 of these 12 to take the Senate…and they could.

But at this point, with one year to go, I see seven of them going to the Democrats, meaning the Democrats will hold the Senate by a reduced margin, only 52-48. 

Here is the full chart of every race, and the latest polling in the battleground states, and then follows a brief profile of each battleground race as it stands now.  The blue rows are the solid Democratic races, the white are the battlegrounds, and the red rows are solid Republican.


Incumb.

Retiring/
Dem
Rep
Poll
Current
State
Party
Incumb.
Running
Cand.
Cand.
Margin
Status
Colorado
D
Udall
Running
Udall


Solid Dem
Delaware
D
Coons
Running
Coons


Solid Dem
Hawaii
D
Schatz
Running
Schatz


Solid Dem
Illinois
D
Durbin
Running
Durbin


Solid Dem
Massachusetts
D
Markey
Running
Markey


Solid Dem
Minnesota
D
Franken
Running
Franken


Solid Dem
New Mexico
D
Udall
Running
Udall


Solid Dem
Oregon
D
Merkley
Running
Merkley


Solid Dem
Rhode Island
D
Reed
Running
Reed


Solid Dem
Virginia
D
Warner
Running
Warner


Solid Dem
New Jersey
D
Booker
Running
Booker


Solid Dem
Michigan
D
Levin
Retiring
Peters
Land
Dem +7
Lean Dem
Alaska
D
Begich
Running
Begich
Palin/Treadwell
Dem +6
Lean Dem
North Carolina
D
Hagan
Running
Hagan
(Generic)
Dem +5
Lean Dem
New Hampshire
D
Shaheen
Running
Shaheen
Brown
Dem +4
Lean Dem
Iowa
D
Harkin
Retiring
Braley
(Generic)
Dem +4
Tossup Dem
Louisiana
D
Landrieu
Running
Landrieu
Cassidy
Dem +4
Tossup Dem
Arkansas
D
Pryor
Running
Pryor
Cotton
Dem +2
Tossup Dem
Kentucky
R
McConnell
Running
Grimes
McConnell
Dem +2
Tossup Rep
Georgia
R
Chambliss
Retiring
Nunn
Generic
Even
Tossup Rep
South Dakota
D
Johnson
Retiring
Weiland
Rounds
Rep + 6
Lean Rep
West Virginia
D
Rockefeller
Retiring
Tennant
Capito
Rep + 14
Lean Rep
Montana
D
Baucus
Retiring
Juneau/Lindeen
Racicot
Rep +15
Lean Rep
Alabama
R
Sessions
Running

Sessions

Solid Rep
Idaho
R
Risch
Running

Risch

Solid Rep
Kansas
R
Roberts
Running

Roberts

Solid Rep
Maine
R
Collins
Running

Collins

Solid Rep
Mississippi
R
Cochran
?

?

Solid Rep
Nebraska
R
Johanns
Retiring

?

Solid Rep
Oklahoma
R
Inhofe
Running

Inhofe

Solid Rep
South Carolina
R
Graham
Running

Graham

Solid Rep
South Carolina
R
Scott
Running

Scott

Solid Rep
Tennessee
R
Alexander
Running

Alexander

Solid Rep
Texas
R
Cornyn
Running

Cornyn

Solid Rep
Wyoming
R
Enzi
Running

Enzi

Solid Rep

You will note that most of the battleground states are now held by Democrats, ten of them, versus only two by Republicans.  Five Democrats are retiring, versus only one Republican.

There are two states that can barely be considered “battleground,” since Republicans have large leads in West Virginia and Montana, where two long-serving Democrats are retiring, Jay Rockefeller and Max Baucus.  Both of these races have been closer at times than now, and neither have recent polls reflecting the anti-Republican backlash from the shutdown battle, which is a real factor – for now.  So it is too soon to let them slip into the “certain red” category.

When looking at the “generic ballot” – when pollsters ask voters whether they would vote for a nameless Democrat or Republican in a congressional election -- you can see the strength of that backlash.  The Democrats are now up 5.6 points, a sharp change from the relative evenness of this measure since Election Day 2012.  That kind of swing is of a “sea change” magnitude and would have profound implications on the 2014 elections if it holds.

Generic Congressional Ballot
7-Nov
5-Aug
5-Sep
5-Oct
5-Nov
  Democrat
46.3
40.5
38.4
41.9
45.4
  Republican
46.0
39.5
38.8
38.4
39.8
  Net
0.3
1.0
-0.4
3.4
5.6

BATTLEGROUND STATES

Here is a brief review of the 12 battleground Senate elections in 2014:

·        AlaskaDemocratic incumbent Mark Begish has a relatively secure lead over several potential Republican challengers, including Sarah Palin.

·        Arkansas:  Democratic incumbent Mark Pryor is barely ahead (within the margin of error) in a red state the GOP would love to swipe.  Representative Tom Cotton is the likely Republican candidate in a race that has been very close in every poll.

·        Georgia:  A fascinating race to replace the retiring Republican Saxby Chambliss features Democrat Michelle Nunn, daughter of Sam, a political neophyte (she runs a “Points of Light” volunteer organization) versus several potential Republican candidates who are currently representatives (e.g., Phil Gingrey).  These House members have just cast very unpopular pro-shutdown votes that are already hurting them in the polls, a trend hardly unique to Georgia.

·        Iowa:  Democratic Representative Bruce Braley seems to be on fairly solid footing to retain the seat currently held by retiring Democrat Tom Harkin.  No frontrunner has emerged yet for the Republicans.

·        KentuckyIs Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell really in trouble?  At this juncture, yes.  Alison Lunderman Grimes is running a strong campaign and is now neck-and-neck in the polls, but McConnell sure knows how to get down and dirty down the stretch.  I can’t see him losing, but this will be a barnburner.

·        Louisiana:  Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu is looking reasonably strong in a tight race with Republican Representative Bill Cassidy, another race where a pro-shutdown vote could hurt the challenger.

·        MichiganDemocratic Representative Gary Peters has taken a relatively commanding lead over former state Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land in the race to replace yet another retiring Democratic incumbent, Carl Levin.  Land had been ahead in this race in earlier polling, but a post-shutdown poll showed a big swing to Peters.

·        Montana:  Democratic hopes for holding onto retiring incumbent Max Baucus’s seat in this red state took a hit when popular former Governor Brian Schweitzer decided to sit this one out (perhaps while testing Presidential ambitions).  That leaves an unknown field to do battle (potentially) with another former governor, Republican Mark Racicot or Representative Steve Daines.

·        New HampshireThe only reason for designating this as a “battleground” state is the potential entry of former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown into the race.  Brown has a residence in New Hampshire and has been making many appearances.  Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaneen handles the rest of the field handily but is only up four points on Brown.

·        North CarolinaDemocratic incumbent Kay Hagan caught a break when Republican Representative Virginia Foxx decided not to run, leaving the Republicans scrambling to find a candidate.  Hagan leads a generic opponent by five.

·        South DakotaDemocratic incumbent Tim Johnson is also retiring, and former Governor Mike Rounds has a decent lead over former Tom Daschle staffer Rick Weiland in this red state.  An easy switch for the Republicans.

·        West VirginiaDemocratic incumbent Jay Rockefeller is also retiring.  Republican representative Shirley Moore Capito has a huge lead over state Democratic Secretary of State Natalie Tennant.  That lead was only five points a few months ago but now it is up to 15.


While we are only a year away, it is still early.  We are months away from declarations of intentions (by and large), primaries and campaigns.  But make no mistake, despite many Republican self-inflicted wounds, there is no easy path to keeping the Senate in Democrat control at his juncture.

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