Senate Watch: May 24
This installment of Senate Watch, I’ve put more into the DW-NOMINATE analysis of the candidates. More on that after the jump. First, here is the current map:
Now for the details.
As always, “Continuing” refers to the seats in Senate Classes 2 and 3, which are not up for election this cycle.
Here the highlights of the past two weeks, walking from the Pacific to the Atlantic:
- Arizona: Until recently, Representative Jeff Flake (R-Mesa, AZ) was a shoo-in for the Republican nomination. But Wil Cardon, CEO of a real estate investment firm, is suddenly coming on fast, with an advertising blitz taking him from single digits to 20 percent in a couple of months. This narrowed a 50-point lead for Flake a couple of months ago to 22 points. The primary election will be on September 11, leaving plenty of time for Cardon to capture the nomination. Flake has a 13-point lead over former US Surgeon General Richard Carmona (the only declared Democrat in the race), which is pretty much the same advantage he’s had all along. Cardon and Carmona are within the margin of error, though Cardon has always polled up by a couple of points. Thus far, as Cardon gets better recognition, he performs better against Flake, and the same may happen against Carmona. This is definitely a race to keep watching.
- New Mexico: Two polls were conducted in the past month. Both Public Policy Polling and Rasmussen give the likely Democratic nominee, Representative Martin Heinrich (D-Albuquerque, NM), a narrow lead over the likely Republican nominee, former Representative Heather Wilson (R-Albuquerque, NM). Yes, Wilson used to have the seat now held by Heinrich. Wilson’s DW-NOMINATE started at +0.325, but grew to +0.430 in her last term. Heinrich, by comparison, is –0.232. With a PVI of D+2, the sweet spot in DW-NOMINATEs is –0.1. On this basis alone, Heinrich should be able to win the election in November against Wilson.
- Montana: Democratic incumbent Senator Jon Tester has a relatively difficult job ahead of him. He represents a state with a PVI of R+7, corresponding to a DW-NOMINATE of +0.35. Tester’s DW-NOMINATE is –0.292, a sizeable gap of 0.64. The man considered his most likely opponent is Representative Denny Rehberg, whose DW-NOMINATE is +0.496, a gap of only 0.15. While the two DW-NOMINATE scores are not directly comparable (they don’t quite have the same scales in the two houses), the gap differential is significant enough to overcome that factor. Public Policy Polling shows Tester with a five-point lead over Rehberg, while Rasmussen gives Rehberg the edge by ten. Considering Rasmussen’s house bias, it’s still probably a couple of points in Rehberg’s favor right now. Without the benefit of incumbency, a Tester win would be an impossibility. With that benefit, it becomes merely an improbability.
- North Dakota: State Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp is the only declared Democratic candidate. Her most likely opponent is Representative Rick Berg. Attorneys General are typically on the conservative side of their respective parties, because of the need for a “law and order” platform in order to be elected. This should result in Heitkamp being considered particularly moderate as Democrats go. Berg is a freshman in Congress, and so has yet to warrant a DW-NOMINATE score. His public policy stances tend to be more in sync with the hard-line conservatives than with the moderate Republicans in Congress, though, which should place him at or above +0.5. With the state’s PVI of R+10, a DW-NOMINATE of +0.5 is the butter zone. This all makes Berg look like the likely successor to Kent Conrad, the Democratic incumbent. Indeed, the lone poll conducted to date shows Berg with a seven-point lead.
- Nebraska: State Senator Deb Fischer (R-Valentine, NE) pulled of a surprise upset, capturing the Republican nomination. As Monotreme already discussed, former Senator Bob Kerrey has an uphill battle for this seat, in a state with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+13.
- Missouri: While former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman has had a lead over Representative Todd Akin (R-Town and Country, MO), that lead has been diminishing over time. The last poll, conducted in January, indicated a nine-point lead for . Regardless of which Republican faces Democratic incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill, polls right now don’t give a clear lead to anyone. Missouri’s PVI of R+3 corresponds to a DW-NOMINATE of +0.15. This is a significant 0.39 gap with McCaskill’s –0.24, though her incumbency might help counter this gap to a degree. Akin has a DW-NOMINATE of +0.748, resulting in a gap of nearly 0.60, even larger than McCaskill’s. It’s not surprising that Missouri is currently in “Tossup” territory.
- Wisconsin: Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison, WI) is considered by most to be the most likely Democratic candidate. Former Governor Tommy Thompson is leading comfortably in polls against his Republican opponents. Baldwin is pretty liberal, rating –0.589 on the DW-NOMINATE scale. This is pretty far from the –0.10 that the state’s PVI would support. The latest Rasmussen poll closely matches the latest Public Policy Polling poll, if you consider the house effect at Rasmussen. Both give a small edge to Thompson, which makes sense given the DW-NOMINATE gap. The two are close enough to be able to affect the outcome, though.
- Ohio: State Treasurer Josh Mandel pulled off a surprise upset against Donna Glisman to capture the Republican nomination. He’ll face incumbent Senator Sherrod Brown in November. Polls have given Brown a small, but consistent, lead in this match.
The more observant of you will notice no changes in the map since last time. Republicans still need three of the tossups to capture the Senate. Intrade is giving them a 57 percent chance of doing it, up one point from two weeks ago. How credible do you think that is?
- Democratic poll puts McCaskill ahead (midwestdemocracy.com)