Swing State Pres

Monday, September 1, 2014

Senate 2014 Election Update: Dems 51, GOP 49...Plenty of Toss-ups...Could Senate Control Come Down to Louisiana? In December?

As we start the post-Labor Day gallop to Election Day with just about nine weeks to go (see the chart on the right if you want the countdown down to the second), the race for control of the Senate is now, if possible, even tighter than it was in late July in my last update.  And to end the suspense, I have the Democrats holding on to the Senate by a 51-49 margin. 

But there remain nine battleground states, with a few others I am tracking closely to see if they merit a change in that status.  Of the nine battleground states, seven are toss-ups, with the average leads, based on recent polling, well within the margin of error.  Here is the high level scorecard as compared to prior updates:


Oct 17,
Mar 23,
Jul 21,
Sep 2,

2013
2014
2014
2014
Democrats Total
52
51
52
51
Dem Not Up
34
34
34
34
Dem Solid
11
10
11
11
Dem Lean
4
2
1
2
Dem Toss-up
3
5
6
4
Rep Toss-up
2
3
1
3
Rep Lean
3
3
1
0
Rep Solid
12
13
16
16
Rep Not Up
31
30
30
30
Republicans Total
48
49
48
49

The Democrats have 34 seats that are not up for reelection, and 11 others are solid blue.  The GOP has only 30 seats not up for reelection, but 16 solid red.  Because the Democrats need only 50 seats to retain control, while the GOP needs 51 (because the Democrats control the White House and VP Joe Biden breaks any ties in a 50-50 Senate), each side thus needs to win five of the nine battleground states to take the Senate.  And it may all come down to Louisiana, well after Election Day…read on to understand why.

What has changed in the last six weeks?  Georgia has flipped.  In July, Representative Jack Kingston seemed to be the favorite for the GOP nomination, but businessman David Perdue beat him in a squeaker on primary night.  Perdue is now riding a bit of post-primary momentum and is slightly ahead of first-time Democratic candidate Michelle Nunn in the race to replace retiring Republican Saxby Chambliss.  This was never going to be an easy race for the Democrats to turn, but Nunn has a great name (her father was Sam Nunn) and no track record to defend, and she is making it a race.  But as of now, she is coming up a bit short.

Georgia is one of five races that are now less than two points apart.  Iowa is as near a dead-heat as one can imagine.  I do feel Democrat Representative Bruce Braley will ultimately prevail over State Senator Joni Ernst, who has some under-publicized far right views that, in theory, Braley could exploit.  For example, Ernst opposes the farm bill – in Iowa! – and also opposes the minimum wage (not a potential increase in the minimum wage, but any minimum wage), and at one point she favored impeachment for President Obama.  She, in fact, draws comparisons to Sarah Palin.  But thus far, she is even with Braley.

I am keeping my eye on several other races.  New Hampshire and Kansas have both tightened and each have two recent polls that have slipped from double-digit leads for the favorites to high single digit margins.  In New Hampshire, erstwhile Massachusetts Senator “Downtown” Scott Brown may be gaining some traction against incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen.  And in Kansas, the wildly unpopular incumbent Republican Pat Roberts has seen his lead narrow against Democratic unknown Chad Taylor.  I still consider them both “solid” – for now.

Also tightening is the race in Minnesota, but Democrat incumbent Al Franken still has a low double-digit lead, and South Dakota, where Republican Mike Rounds maintains a 15-point lead.  Both margins, while healthy, are lower than they were in July by a material amount.

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 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
9/9 primary

Solid Dem
Hawaii
D
Schatz
Running
Schatz
Cavasso

Solid Dem
Illinois
D
Durbin
Running
Durbin
Oberweis

Solid Dem
Massachusetts
D
Markey
Running
Markey
9/9 primary

Solid Dem
Minnesota
D
Franken
Running
Franken
McFadden

Solid Dem
New Hampshire
D
Shaheen
Running
Shaheen
Brown (9/9 pri)

Solid Dem
New Jersey
D
Booker
Running
Booker
Bell

Solid Dem
New Mexico
D
Udall
Running
Udall
Weh

Solid Dem
Oregon
D
Merkley
Running
Merkley
Wehby

Solid Dem
Rhode Island
D
Reed
Running
Reed
Zaccaria (9/9 pri)

Solid Dem
Virginia
D
Warner
Running
Warner
Gillespie

Solid Dem
Alaska
D
Begich
Running
Begich
Sullivan
Dem +5
Lean Dem
Michigan
D
Levin
Retiring
Peters
Land
Dem +4
Lean Dem
North Carolina
D
Hagan
Running
Hagan
Tillis
Dem +2
Tossup Dem
Colorado
D
Udall
Running
Udall
Gardner
Dem +1
Tossup Dem
Louisiana
D
Landrieu
Running
Landrieu
Cassidy
Dem +1
Tossup Dem
Iowa
D
Harkin
Retiring
Braley
Ernst
Dem+0.2
Tossup Dem
Georgia
R
Chambliss
Retiring
Nunn
Perdue
Rep +1
Tossup Rep
Arkansas
D
Pryor
Running
Pryor
Cotton
Rep +3
Tossup Rep
Kentucky
R
McConnell
Running
Grimes
McConnell
Rep +3
Tossup 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
    Walsh
Retiring
        Curtis
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
Ball
Alexander

Solid Rep
Texas
R
Cornyn
Running
Alameel
Cornyn

Solid Rep
West Virginia
D
Rockefeller
Retiring
Tennant
Capito

Solid Rep
Wyoming
R
Enzi
Running
Hardy
Enzi

Solid Rep

BATTLEGROUND STATES

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

·        AlaskaDemocratic incumbent Mark Begish will likely face former Attorney General Daniel S. Sullivan, who won the August 19 primary.  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, but the last three polls on average have Begish up by 5 points.  Lean 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’s lead has narrowed in the past month and this one is now a toss-up, still in the GOP column.  Toss-up Republican.

·        Colorado. Incumbent Democrat Mark Udall is being challenged by Republican Representative Cory Gardner.  There has been no polling in August, and Pryor holds a slight edge on average from five July polls.  Toss-up Democrat.

·        Georgia:  As noted above, Republican David Perdue has a slim lead over Democrat Michelle Nunn. I flipped this to the GOP based on recent polling but this one remains extremely close. Toss-up Republican.

·        Iowa:  As noted, Democratic Representative Bruce Braley is in a tough race to inherit the seat currently held by retiring Democrat Tom Harkin, with a microscopic lead over State Senator Joni Ernst.  Tossup Democrat.

·        KentuckySenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell continues to struggle to put away Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lunderman Grimes, but he appears to have established minor momentum and a three-point lead.  That lead is still within the margin of error, so this race is still a toss-up.  I will be shocked if McConnell loses, though.  Toss-up 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 may 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 June/July (no new polls in August).  And if, on election night, the GOP is up 50-49 and neither Louisianan achieves 50%, we will all have our eyes glued on the run-off to see which party takes the Senate; the run-off will be on December 6, 2014Toss-up Democrat.

·        MichiganDemocratic Representative Gary Peters’ has a decent lead over former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land in the race to replace retiring Democratic incumbent, Carl Levin.   There have been many polls here, 10 in the last two months, and Peters has led in nine of them.  Lean Democrat.

·        North Carolina:  Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan continues to lead a very close race with Thom Tillis, Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, holding on to a two-point lead.  Toss-up Democrat.

I have the Democrats up 51-49, but, with seven toss-up races, any outcome including GOP control is still a possibility.  And now as we celebrate Labor Day, let the games begin in earnest.




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