Senate Watch: June 9
In the battle for the Senate, most states remain unchanged from last time, but there are a few notable exceptions. 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:
- Nevada: Real Clear Politics believes Nevada is a tossup. The recent NBC News/Marist poll, a registered-voter poll, has incumbent Republican Senator Dean Heller with a two-point lead over his likely opponent, Representative Shelley Berkley (D-Las Vegas). Recent history suggests that the NBC News/Marist polls have a few-point lean to the left. This puts it in the five or six point territory in likely voters. I strongly disagree with RCP on their take; it’s a “Leans Republican” state.
- North Dakota: Ordinarily, we shouldn’t even be discussing a state with a Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) of R+10. But this week, Mason-Dixon released a new poll, covering the matchup between the sole Democratic candidate, former Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp, and her most likely Republican opponent, freshman Representative Rick Berg. In it, Heitkamp leads by a point. While I suspect that it’s probably a bit of an outlier, coupled with last month’s Forum/Essman poll showing Berg ahead by seven points, I’m more confident that North Dakota “Leans Republican” than being a “Likely Republican”. Real Clear Politics disagrees with me; they’re calling it a tossup. At the very least, we should watch for confirmation of it being as close a race as Mason-Dixon believes it to be.
- Nebraska: No new polls, but I’m adding a new gradient to this map, calling it “Current D, Likely to Flip R”. That also changes the bar graph, even though the likelihood hasn’t really changed in the past two weeks.
- Missouri: Republican former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman’s lead over Representative Todd Akin (R-Town and Country), continues to shrink. The newest Public Policy Polling poll gives Steelman a mere three-point lead for the nomination, down from nine in January; the difference this time is that the runner-up is businessman John Brunner (her lead over Akin shrank by four). Regardless of which Republican faces Democratic incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill, polls still don’t give a clear lead to anyone. Public Policy Polling has Steelman tied with McCaskill, while Rasmussen indicates a dozen-point Steelman lead. Both give McCaskill two more points against Brunner. All of this suggests a slight lean to the R side, with the long-term trend to the right. As I noted last time, the state’s PVI points to a barely Republican lean. With such conservative offerings from the Republican Party, this shouldn’t be an easy race for any of the candidates, but a recent McCaskill tax scandal has cost her a couple of points, at least temporarily. With the latest poll trend, I’m putting Missouri into the “Leans Republican” column, but I expect to see reversion to the mean by next time.
- Michigan: One new poll from Public Policy Polling has incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow with a commanding lead over the persumptive Republican nominee, former Representative Pete Hoekstra (R-Zeeland). Recent historical data suggest that PPP is biased to the left, perhaps by as many as five or six points. Even so, that leaves things in Stabenow’s territory. When Hoekstra retired from the House to run for Governor in 2010, his DW-NOMINATE was +0.736, far more conservative than the –0.20 that the state’s D+4 PVI would project. While Stabenow’s DW-NOMINATE is –0.412, it’s both the correct sign and so much closer to the PVI projection that, especially with the extra push of incumbency, it’s hard to imagine Hoekstra has much of a chance, barring some major disruption.
- Ohio: With State Treasurer Josh Mandel facing off against incumbent Senator Sherrod Brown in November. The latest Rasmussen poll shows Brown up by five, consistent with the historical data (if you account for house effects). Brown should be a relatively easy target, given that he was the 11th most liberal Senator in the 111th Congress, so this is a race to continue to watch.
- Florida: For the first time, a poll has indicated a lead for Representative Connie Mack, IV (R-Fort Meyers) over Democratic incumbent Senator Bill Nelson. Quinnipiac released a poll indicating a one-point lead for Mack, while NBC News/Marist suggested a four-point lead for Nelson and Public Policy Polling shows Nelsonwith a 13-point lead. Accounting for the house biases, we can consider the three polls to give roughly the same picture, that of a few-point edge to Nelson.
- Virginia: It has been two months since a poll was published showing presumptive Republican nominee (and former Senator and Governor) George Allen with a lead over presumptive Democratic nominee (and former Governor) Tim Kaine. Allen had a DW-NOMINATE score of +0.407, which is a bit to the right of the projected PVI equivalent of +0.10. We can’t determine Kaine’s DW-NOMINATE, but his policies put him all over the map. Regardless, the three most recent polls, one from NBC News/Marist, one from Quinnipiac and one from Rasmussen, show Kaine with a six, one, and two-point lead, respectively. The last two are within the margins of error, but with the longer trend suggestive of a slight (but real) lead for Kaine. It’s such a small lead, though, that it’s still effectively a tossup this far out.
- Connecticut: Here’s a new state to watch more closely. Representative Chris Murphy (D-Cheshire) appears ever more likely to pick up his party’s nomination. On Team Red, WWE founder Linda McMahon is now drawing similar primary numbers. In a matchup between the two, the latest Quinnipiac poll has Murphy with a mere three-point lead, putting the state in danger of being called a tossup. One lone poll may simply be an outlier; we’ll wait to see if we get confirmation from elsewhere before changing the map color.
- Massachusetts: Incumbent Republican Senator Scott Brown remains statistically tied with challenger Elizabeth Warren. The latest round of polls from Suffolk/7News, and the Boston Globe show tiny leads for Brown, while Western New England University’s poll shows an equally tiny lead for Warren. Massachusetts has a PVI of D+12, which would support a DW-NOMINATE of –0.60. Brown’s DW-NOMINATE of +0.183, while exceptionally moderate for a Republican (he’s the third most liberal Republican in the Senate), is still pretty far from the state’s position on the political spectrum. Absent the incumbency, Brown wouldn’t be expected to stand a chance. But with the incumbency, it’s still a tossup.
The map has changed a bit from two weeks ago. A couple of tossups have moved into the “Leans” columns, one for each party. Intrade is giving Republicans about a 55 percent chance of taking the Senate, down two points from two weeks ago, with a 26 percent chance of Democrats holding at least 51 seats, and 14 percent chance of exactly 50 seats. Note that the three add up to 96 percent, which I believe reflects more about how lightly traded these markets are than anything else. How credible do you think those market numbers are? Do you agree or disagree with my state analyses above?
- Race for Senate: ‘Toss Up’ says Poll (stlouis.cbslocal.com)
- Missouri Sen. McCaskill late paying taxes on D.C. property (kansascity.com)
- Midwest Democracy | Another tax lapse adds to the heat on McCaskill (midwestdemocracy.com)
- Another tax lapse adds to the heat on McCaskill (kansascity.com)
- Esquire:The Missouri Senate Race: A Surge, a Wallet, a Question (esquire.com)
- Reëlection Watch: June 2, 2012 (logarchism.com)
- ND-2012 Senate: 47% Heitkamp (D), 46% Berg (R) (Mason-Dixon 6/4–6) (huffingtonpost.com)
- Brown-Warren tops Senate race list (politico.com)
- Senate Watch: May 24 (logarchism.com)