Swing State Pres

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

BTRTN Latest Senate Rack-Up: Could Senate Control All Come Down to Louisiana on December 10th?

Today we take our second look at the Senate, and our first since April.  And though four months have passed, the overall picture does not look terribly different.

As we said back then, the Senate is most definitely “in play,” meaning there is a decent chance the Democrats can reverse the 2014 outcome and take back majority control.  The headline of this snapshot, based on recent polling where available, is the race for control of the Senate is, in itself, a toss-up.  BTRTN has this snapshot at 50/50, with the Democrats picking up four seats, which means Senate control would rest with the party who wins the presidential race, with Tim Kaine or Mike Pence wielding the gavel to break ties. Given the state of the Presidential campaign, with Hillary Clinton solidly ahead of Donald Trump, 50/50 likely means the Dems will re-take control of the Senate.

BTRTN SENATE RACK-UP

April 13
August 15
DEM TOTAL
50
50
Dem Holdover
36
36
Dem Solid
8
9
Dem Lean
2
5
Dem Toss-up
4
0
GOP Toss-up
1
2
GOP Lean
3
4
GOP Solid
16
14
GOP Holdover
30
30
GOP TOTAL
50
50
Let’s review the basics.  Of the 100 Senate seats, only 34 are up for re-election this year.  As the chart to the right shows, the Dems have 36 holdover seats, and also a solid lock on 9 more contests, including the likes of Chuck Schumer in New York and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who win by large margins every time they are up for re-election.  That means 45 Dem seats are in the bag.  (See the chart at the bottom of the article for every race.)

The GOP has only 30 seats that are not up for reelection, but they have a lock on 14 of the races, including, for example, John Hoeven of South Dakota, who won by 51 points back in 2010, and others who are similarly immovable.  So the GOP can count on 44 seats.

That math (100-45-44) leaves 11 seats up for grabs, the so-called “swing states," races that have largely single-digit margins in polling to date (where such polling exists).  The Dems have the edge in five of those races, and 45 (holdover/solids) + 5 (leans) = 50.  The GOP has the edge in six states, and 44 (holdover/solids) + 6 (leans) = 50.  Thus the 50/50 outcome in this snapshot.  While little has changed since April, when we also had a 50/50 split, the Dems’ hand is a bit stronger now as the Dems no longer have any toss-ups; those races have migrated into stronger Dem categories.

At this stage of the campaigns, this snapshot basically ignores the potential impact of the “top of the ticket,” so you can well imagine the situation looking even worse for the GOP given how the presidential polls are looking now, with Clinton up by 7 points over Trump and leading in virtually all of the swing states by healthy margins.  Specifically, an utter disaster at the top could spell trouble for those six swing states in which the GOP currently lead, if enough GOP voters are sufficiently disheartened to not even bother voting, thus inflicting damage “down the ticket.”

Looking at the individual races, I should note one big change since April.  I thought then that Colorado would be in play, since Democratic Senator Michael Bennet had won his first term in 2010 by a single point.  But Bennet holds a double-digit lead in each of three polls conducted in July and August, the latest by +15, so he appears to be quite solid in his race against Darryl Glenn, the Republican El Paso County Supervisor.  Thus Colorado has moved into the “Dem Solid” category.

That leaves 11 true swing states.  Let’s break them down – they fall into three “buckets”:

There are five seats that are currently held by Republicans that are looking as if they could well be flipped based on current polling.  I have them all as “Dem Lean,” although you could make an argument that at least one is more like “Dem Solid.” 
  • Wisconsin.   The Dems can practically taste this one, a re-match between first-term GOP Senator Ron Johnson and the man he defeated, former Democratic Senator Russ Feingold.  Johnson won by five points in the Tea Party year of 2010.  But 2016, as a presidential election year, will have a much higher Democratic turnout than an off-year election, and this will help Feingold in a re-match – especially with Trump/top-of-the-ticket issues.  Feingold is up +11 in an August poll and this is close to being Dem Solid.  BTRTN rating:  Dem Lean. 
  • Illinois.  GOP Senator Mark Kirk is a second-termer who barely won reelection in 2010, winning by two points.  He will face popular Democratic representative Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran who lost both her legs in combat.  Kirk has already disavowed Trump, but still Duckworth is +7 in current polling.  BTRTN rating: Dem Lean.
  • New Hampshire.  Kelly Ayotte is a first-term Republican who is facing a serious challenge from former Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan (as well as the wrath of Donald Trump for her tepid support of him).  Hassan had been trailing but has caught up and now leads Ayotte by +6.  BTRTN rating:  Dem Lean.
  • Pennsylvania.  Another GOP first-termer, Pat Toomey, who won by just two points in 2010, will be facing Katie McGinty, a former Dem gubernatorial candidate.  McGinty defeated Joe Sestek, Toomey’s opponent in 2010, in the Dem primary.  McGinty is up by +3 at this point.  BTRTN rating:  Dem Lean.
  • Indiana.  I had this as a Solid GOP in April, but then GOP Senator Dan Coats announced his retirement and Democrat Evan Bayh jumped in.  Bayh is a well-known name in the state, as a former Senator and Governor, as well as the son of long-time Senator Birch Bayh.  Evan Bayh stepped down from his Senate seat in 2010, but he is back and will face GOP Rep. Todd Young.  There has been no independent polling but there is a Bayh poll that purports to have him ahead by over 20 points.  I put this in the Dem column given Bayh’s name recognition and appeal, and Young’s obscurity.  BTRTN Rating:  Dem Lean. 

The second bucket consists of two “GOP Toss-ups,” meaning that they are really too close to call, but in an effort to avoid pure toss-ups, we find just enough to tip both to the GOP in this snapshot. 
  • Nevada:  Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid is retiring, and the GOP has a decent chance to flip this seat.  They fumbled away a chance six years ago when they nominated a Tea Party favorite, Sharron Angle, to challenge the then weak Reid (pun intended), and she threw it away, losing by five points.  This year former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Matso (D) will face GOP Rep Joe Heck, and Heck is up by just a point in two July polls.  BTRTN rating:  GOP Toss-up.
  • North Carolina.  Richard Burr is a second-term GOP Senator who won re-election handily in 2010, by 12 points.  He has gained fame by standing strong for the most anti-LGBT laws in the land, and he has been publicly punished by everyone from Bruce Springsteen to the NBA, who are among the many to cancel or move North Carolina events in protest of the law.  Burr once held a substantial lead but is now up by just one point over Deborah Ross, the former Democratic state house majority whip.   BTRTN rating:  GOP Toss-up. 

The last bucket includes the four states that the GOP has a significant edge in defending.  I have all four as “GOP Lean.”  But they are within range of the Dems, particularly if there is a major negative “top of the ticket” effect on GOP turnout. 
  • Missouri.   Yet another first-termer, GOP Senator Roy Blunt, is in reasonably good shape in his re-election bid, with a +4 lead over Democratic challenger Jason Kander, the secretary of state.   BTRTN rating:  GOP Lean.
  • Arizona.  This is one that I had in the “GOP Solid” camp in April, but GOP incumbent John McCain has been weakened this year.  McCain has a primary fight on his hands and, assuming he survives that (the primary is August 30), he will face Democratic Rep Ann Kirkpatrick in the election.  He leads her by +6 in averaging two June polls.  BTRTN rating:  GOP Lean.
  • Florida.  Marco Rubio slunk back into the Senate race after bowing out of his run for President.  Rubio won a three-way race in 2010, in which former GOP Governor Charlie Crist ran as an independent.  Crist (who has since become a Democrat), and the Democrat candidate, Kendrick Meek, actually received slightly more votes than Rubio, 49/48.  The Florida primary is not until August 30, and the leading contenders are Democratic Representatives Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson; and Rubio will have to defeat a passel of fellow Republicans on his side.  Rubio has a +6 lead over Murphy (and a bigger one over Grayson).   BTRTN rating:  GOP Lean.
  • Ohio.  GOP Senator Rob Portman won by 18 points when he was first elected in 2010, and was once on Mitt Romney’s short list of VP aspirants.  But times have changed, and it looks like this will be a tough battle for Portman versus former Democratic Governor Ted Strickland.  At the moment, however, Portman is up +7 in two August polls.  BTRTN rating:  GOP Lean. 

One more thing to keep in mind.  Louisiana has a crazy system.  They do not hold primaries; rather, they use Election Day itself to narrow the field.  A grand total of 24 candidates across the political spectrum are on the ballot for this November.  A winner can be declared only if one person exceeds 50% of this vote; otherwise, there will be a run-off election on December 10 between the top 2 finishers.  If a Republican and a Democrat comprise the top two, we may not know who controls the Senate until December 10.  (And the Dems better not be counting on this, it is almost certainly going to be a GOP win.)

This chart summarizes the state of play in each of the 34 races, as of now.

State
Inc. Party
Incumbent
Dem
GOP
Poll Margin
Poll    Month (#)
BTRTN
Hold/    Flip
Not running

46-54






California
D
Boxer
Boxer
No GOP
none

Solid D
Hold
New York
D
Schumer
Schumer
Long
D + 32
Jul (1)
Solid D
Hold
Connecticut
D
Blumenthal
Blumenthal
Carter
D + 30
Jun (1)
Solid D
Hold
Hawaii
D
Schatz
Schatz
TBD
none

Solid D
Hold
Maryland
D
Mikulski *
Van Hollen
Szeliga
none

Solid D
Hold
Colorado
D
Bennet
Bennet
Glenn
D +15
Aug (1)
Solid D
Hold
Oregon
D
Wyden
Wyden
Callaghan
none

Solid D
Hold
Vermont
D
Leahy
Leahy
Milne
none

Solid D
Hold
Washington
D
Murray
Murray
Vance
none

Solid D
Hold
Wisconsin
R
Johnson
Feingold
Johnson
D + 11
Aug (1)
Lean D
FLIP
Illinois
R
Kirk
Duckworth
Kirk
D + 7
Aug (1)
Lean D
FLIP
New Hampshire
R
Ayotte
Hassan
Ayotte
D + 6
Aug (2)
Lean D
FLIP
Pennsylvania
R
Toomey
McGinty
Toomey
D + 3
Aug (3)
Lean D
FLIP
Indiana
R
Coats
Bayh
Young
none

Lean D
FLIP
Nevada
D
Reid *
Masto
Heck
R + 1
Jul (2)
Tossup R
FLIP
North Carolina
R
Burr
Ross
Burr
R + 1
Aug (2)
Tossup R
Hold
Missouri
R
Blunt
Kander
Blunt
R + 4
Jul (2)
Lean R
Hold
Arizona
R
McCain
Kirkpatrick
McCain
R + 6
Jun (2)
Lean R
Hold
Florida
R
Rubio
(Murphy)
Rubio
R + 6
Aug (4)
Lean R
Hold
Ohio
R
Portman
Strickland
Portman
R + 7
Aug (2)
Lean R
Hold
Georgia
R
Isakson
Barksdale
Isakson
R + 8
Aug (2)
Solid R
Hold
Iowa
R
Grassley
Judge
Grassley
R + 10
Aug (2)
Solid R
Hold
Kansas
R
Moran
Wiesner
Moran
R + 20
Aug (1)
Solid R
Hold
Kentucky
R
Paul
Gray
Paul
none

Solid R
Hold
Louisiana
R
Vitter
24 cand's.; runoff certain
none

Solid R
Hold
North Dakota
R
Hoeven
Grassheim
Hoeven
none

Solid R
Hold
Oklahoma
R
Lankford
Workman
Lankford
none

Solid R
Hold
South Dakota
R
Thune
Williams
Thune
none

Solid R
Hold
S. Carolina
R
Scott
Dixon
Scott
R + 17
Aug (1)
Solid R
Hold
Alabama
R
Shelby
Crumpton
Shelby
none

Solid R
Hold
Alaska
R
Murkowski
TBD
Murkowski
none

Solid R
Hold
Arkansas
R
Boozman
Eldridge
Boozman
none

Solid R
Hold
Idaho
R
Crapo
Sturgill
Crapo
none

Solid R
Hold
Utah
R
Lee
Snow
Lee
R + 35

Solid R
Hold


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