Swing State Pres

Monday, July 21, 2014

Senate 2014 Election Update: Dems 52, GOP 48...With MANY Tossups (July 21, 2014)

A few important Senate primaries remain, but we are well along in determining the candidates in the upcoming elections, and the battle for control remains remarkably close.  The bottom line:  I have the Democrats holding on, losing only 3 net seats and maintaining control of the upper chamber, 52-48.  But as I will detail, the margin is laughably tight, and of the nine battleground races, eight are literally “toss-ups.”  Keep in mind, this is not a “forecast” per se of expected results in November, but rather taking the temperature of where things stand as of today.  Much can and will happen, of course, that can alter these projections between now and Election Day.

The primary season thus far has been a far cry from 2012, when the GOP squandered race after race by nominating far right (and far out) candidates instead of more moderate, more polished and more electable alternatives.  Delaware, Indiana, Nevada and Missouri – at least – were winnable elections if not for the doomed candidacies of Christine O’Donnell, Richard Mourdock, Sharron Angle and Todd Akin.  Republicans ranging from Reince Priebus (the RNC head) to Karl Rove, neither exactly moderates, have openly sought to prevent similar doomed Tea Party candidates in 2014, and have succeeded.  But that might not be enough to take the Senate.

In March I identified 13 “battleground” states, but I have moved four into the “solid” column, three for the Republicans (West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota) and one for the Democrats (New Hampshire, where Scott Brown has been unable to get any traction).  Polls in each of these four states show consistently commanding double digit margins for the leader.

Here is how it looks at the moment, in comparison to my two earlier forecasts from last October and March.  Right now, I have the Democrats holding on by a 52-48 margin, slightly better than in March.  But the key here is not so much the apparent lead, but rather the number of battleground races that are currently within the margin of error:  eight out of the nine battlegrounds.


Oct. 17,
Mar. 23,
Jul. 21,

2013
2014
2014
Democrats Total
52
51
52
Dem Not Up
34
34
34
Dem Solid
11
10
11
Dem Lean
4
2
1
Dem Tossup
3
5
6
Rep Tossup
2
3
1
Rep Lean
3
3
1
Rep Solid
12
13
16
Rep Not Up
31
30
30
Republicans Total
48
49
48

The Democrats have 34 incumbents who are 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 30 holdovers and 16 virtually certain red wins, adding up to 46 solid red.  So the real battle for control of the Senate will come among 9 battleground contests out of the 36 elections.  Republicans have to win 5 of these 9 to take control of the Senate (they need 51, while the Democrats need only 50 plus Joe Biden’s tiebreaking vote in the event of a split Senate)…and they certainly could.

But as of now, the Democrats nominally lead in 8 of them, most by quite narrow margins, in polling covering May, June and July to date.  That amounts to about 5 polls per race, though several have fewer and some have more.

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 candidates listed are either the incumbents (unless they have announced their retirement) and the primary winners, or, if the primary has not yet been held, the leading contestant if one has emerged.  The blue rows are the solid Democratic races, the white are the 9 battlegrounds, and the red rows are solid Republican.


Inc.

Retiring/
Dem
Rep
Poll
Current
State
Party
Incumbent
Running
Candidate
Candidate
Margin
Status
Delaware
D
Coons
Running
Coons
tbd

Solid Dem
Hawaii
D
Schatz
Running
Schatz
Cavasso

Solid Dem
Illinois
D
Durbin
Running
Durbin
Oberweis

Solid Dem
Massachusetts
D
Markey
Running
Markey
Herr

Solid Dem
Minnesota
D
Franken
Running
Franken
tbd

Solid Dem
New Hampshire
D
Shaheen
Running
Shaheen
Brown

Solid Dem
New Jersey
D
Booker
Running
Booker
tbd

Solid Dem
New Mexico
D
Udall
Running
Udall
tbd

Solid Dem
Oregon
D
Merkley
Running
Merkley
Wehby

Solid Dem
Rhode Island
D
Reed
Running
Reed
McKay

Solid Dem
Virginia
D
Warner
Running
Warner
Gillespie

Solid Dem
Michigan
D
Levin
Retiring
Peters
Land
Dem +6
Lean Dem
Iowa
D
Harkin
Retiring
Braley
Ernst
Dem +1
Tossup Dem
Colorado
D
Udall
Running
Udall
Gardner
Dem + 2
Tossup Dem
Georgia
R
Chambliss
Retiring
Nunn
Kingston
Dem +2
Tossup Dem
Alaska
D
Begich
Running
Begich
Sullivan
Dem +5
Tossup Dem
North Carolina
D
Hagan
Running
Hagan
Tillis
Dem +1
Tossup Dem
Louisiana
D
Landrieu
Running
Landrieu
Cassidy
Dem +1
Tossup Dem
Kentucky
R
McConnell
Running
Grimes
McConnell
Dem +2
Tossup Rep
Arkansas
D
Pryor
Running
Pryor
Cotton
Rep +4
Lean Rep
Alabama
R
Sessions
Running
none
Sessions

Solid Rep
Idaho
R
Risch
Running
Mitchell
Risch

Solid Rep
Kansas
R
Roberts
Running
Taylor
Roberts

Solid Rep
Maine
R
Collins
Running
Bellows
Collins

Solid Rep
Mississippi
R
Cochran
Running
Childers
Cochran

Solid Rep
Montana
D
Baucus
Retiring
Walsh
Daines

Solid Rep
Nebraska
R
Johanns
Retiring
Domina
Sasse

Solid Rep
Oklahoma
R
Inhofe
Running
Silverstein
Inhofe

Solid Rep
Oklahoma
R
Coburn
Retiring
Johnson
Lankford

Solid Rep
South Carolina
R
Graham
Running
Hutto
Graham

Solid Rep
South Carolina
R
Scott
Running
Dickerson
Scott

Solid Rep
South Dakota
D
Johnson
Retiring
Weiland
Rounds

Solid Rep
Tennessee
R
Alexander
Running
tbd
Alexander

Solid Rep
Texas
R
Cornyn
Running
Alameel
Cornyn

Solid Rep
West Virginia
D
Rockefeller
Retiring
Tennant
Capito

Solid Rep
Wyoming
R
Enzi
Running
tbd
Enzi

Solid Rep

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

I am keeping an eye on Montana.  That remains a solid red, but a brand new poll shows that current Democratic Senator John Walsh, appointed last year to fill the seat of Max Baucus (when he was named Ambassador to China), now trails challenger Representative Steve Daines by only 7 points.   Previous polling had Daines up by double digits.  We’ll see if a race emerges here that is close enough to label a battleground.

BATTLEGROUND STATES

Here is a brief review of the 9 battleground Senate elections in 2014:

·        AlaskaDemocratic incumbent Mark Begish will likely face former Attorney General Daniel S. Sullivan, with the primaries upcoming on August 19.  Sullivan has a reasonably healthy lead over other GOP contenders in recent polls.  There has been little head-to-head polling to date between Begich and Sullivan, and the latest poll has Begich up by 5 points.  Prior polls, quite old now, were not as favorable to Begich, thus I am reluctant to call this anything other than a tossup favoring the incumbent.  Tossup Democrat.

·        Arkansas:  Democratic incumbent Mark Pryor will face Representative Tom Cotton in a red state the GOP considers among the most likely for it to swipe. Cotton has a steady four point lead in each of the last three polls.  I have this in the GOP column.  Lean Republican.

·        Colorado. Incumbent Democrat Mark Udall is now being challenged by Republican Representative Cory Gardner and Gardner has emerged as a strong opponent.  Udall holds a slight edge overall, though the most recent poll has Gardner up by two (it was a Quinnipiac poll, though, and they often lean a bit incorrectly toward the GOP).  Tossup Democrat.

·        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) who will be the Democrat nominee.  The Republican primary in May resulted in a runoff, as no one claimed more than 50% of the vote.  U.S. Representative Jack Kinston is leading the polls, not far ahead of fellow Representative Phil Gingery.  Nunn has led in head-to-head polls over Kinston until the last poll which swung to Kingston.  I still have this in the Democrat camp although Nunn has a long way to go to swipe a red state seat.  Tossup Democrat.

·        Iowa:  Democratic Representative Bruce Braley is in a tough race to inherit the seat currently held by retiring Democrat Tom Harkin.  Republican State Senator Joni Ernst won the GOP nomination, and is within the margin of error of Braley, who has proven to be a bit gaffe-prone, at one time (in May) appearing to mock longtime Republican Senator Chuck Grassley as follows:  "You might have a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee." Perhaps Braley has not noticed that Iowa has a few farmers here and there.  Tossup Democrat.

·        KentuckySenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, at this juncture, is still in a dogfight.  He managed to easily crush his own party’s Tea Party challenger businessman Matt Bevin, in the primary.  But Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lunderman is not only hanging in there against him, but is ahead in the polls, albeit within the margin of error., though their polling is as close as can be.  I’m still calling this for McConnell, but, as in sports, the longer the challenger remains in the game, the more credibility she has – and the money will roll in.  By the way, have you seen Mitch’s “happy footage” yet?  Check it out at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6x_pjKkYBAk).  Tossup Republican.

·        Louisiana:  Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu is embroiled in a back-and-forth race with GOP challenger Representative Bill Cassidy.  Louisiana has an odd format…Election Day is more or less an open primary, requiring the winner to attain at least 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff.  Landrieu will likely win the election but be forced into the runoff, and head-to-head she is only a point ahead of Cassidy, on average, in three polls in the last 6 weeks…and the most recent one had Cassidy ahead.  I’ve got this one with Landrieu as of now.  Tossup Democrat.

·        MichiganDemocratic Representative Gary Peters’s has a healthy lead over former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land in the race to replace retiring Democratic incumbent, Carl Levin.   Peters appears to have taken control of this race in late February and has been  ahead in the last 10 polls since then by an average of 6 points.  Lean Democrat.

·        North CarolinaDemocratic incumbent Kay Hagan is locked in a close race with Thom Tillis, Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives.  Tillis survived a very tough primary season against a wide field, and this is one place where the Tea Party failed to beat Tillis, the establishment candidate.  Hagan leads by less than a point, but the last two polls have her up by four.  Tossup Democrat.

While the Democrats hold the advantage, these races are so close that the Democrats could end up with anywhere from 45 to 54 seats.  They are thus almost certain to lose ground from their current 55 (including the two independents)…the only question is…how much?

One thing that has not made much of a dent in the mainstream news is the characterization of the 2016 Senate race.  Republicans may win control in 2014, but if they do, it will almost certainly be a short reign.  In 2016, 34 seats will be up for reelection, and 23 or 24 of them will feature GOP incumbents (depending on South Carolina; one of this year’s South Carolina Senate election is a special election that will be up for grabs again in 2016).  With a presidential election drawing a far bigger turnout, and one far more advantageous for the Democrats, it is highly likely the Democrats will return to the majority in 2016.  Illinois, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin hold GOP seats that could be turnable, and perhaps there will be others if the Democrats field a strong presidential candidate.





2 comments:

  1. Udall is from New Mexico? lol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tom Udall is the Senior Senator from New Mexico.

      His cousin, Mark (who I'm assuming you're be thinking of), is the Senior Senator from Colorado.

      Delete

Leave a comment