Senate Watch: June 23
In the battle for the Senate, most states remain unchanged from last time, but there was one notable exception. And our categorization criteria will be changing soon, as I’ll explain in my summary.
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.
With Nate Silver’s new calculations of pollster house effect biases, I’m able to better assess the prospects of the various candidates.
Here the highlights of the past two weeks, walking from the Pacific to the Atlantic:
- Washington: I mention the Evergreen State only to observe that incumbent Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell is still polling far ahead of her most likely opponent, state Senator Michael Baumgartner. While the poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling, the 16-point margin, which converts to an 11-point adjusted likely voter margin, is sufficiently great as to maintain Washington state deep in the “Lean Democratic” column.
- Nevada: Real Clear Politics continues to call Nevada a tossup. The recent poll from Public Policy Polling has incumbent Republican Senator Dean Heller with a one-point lead over his likely opponent, Representative Shelley Berkley (D-Las Vegas). This translates to an adjusted five-point Heller lead. I remain in opposition to RCP on their take; it’s a “Leans Republican” state.
- Arizona: The only new information we have here is a single poll from Project New America/Public Policy Polling, showing Representative Jeff Flake (R-Mesa) with a two-point margin over the only declared Democrat in the race, former United States Surgeon General Richard Carmona. Unlike past polls from PPP, this one uses a “likely voter” model, which should shade the results about 1.6 points to the right of their usual positioning. This puts Flake about five points ahead of Carmona. Real Clear Politics considers Arizona a “Leans Republican” state, and I agree.
- Montana: Rasmussen has a new poll, indicating a two-point lead for Representative Denny Rehberg (R) over incumbent Democratic Senator Jon Tester. The latest poll makes Rasmussen’s May poll look like an outlier, and suggests that less than a point separates the two candidates. I now believe I was too quick to move Montana to “Lean Republican”, and so I’m moving it back into the Land of the Purple.
- North Dakota: I’m still waiting for more data before moving North Dakota from “Lean Republican” to “Tossup”, but my gut says it probably should be moved.
- Nebraska: There’s one new poll from Rasmussen, confirming what we already know. Republican state Senator Deb Fischer has a commanding lead over her Democratic rival, former Senator Bob Kerrey. This is the single most likely flip of the election.
- Wisconsin: Residents of the Badger State are getting badgered by pollsters. Former Governor Tommy Thompson remains the most likely Republican to face off against Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison), and Thompson has a pretty solid lead: by eight points, according to Marquette University, and 16 points, according to Rasmussen. The two don’t align in margin, even accounting for house effects, but all polls point to Thompson. Real Clear Politics calls Wisconsin a tossup; I call it “Lean Republican”.
- Michigan: Since we last looked, Rasmussen and EPIC-MRA have both released polls on this Senate race. Both indicate that incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow has a commanding lead over the persumptive Republican nominee, former Representative Pete Hoekstra (R-Zeeland). So many signs have been pointing to about a ten-point Stabenow likely-voter lead for so long that, barring a trend to the right showing up in the next two weeks, I’m going to move Michigan to “Likely to Stay Democrat” in our next installment.
- Virginia: With the house effect data more clearly defined, Virginia seems pretty consistently a point or two in former Governor Tim Kaine’s favor, over former Governor George Allen. This puts Virginia on the cusp of being called “Lean Democratic”, provided the consistency persists until August.
- Florida: Now that former Senator George LeMieux has dropped out of the race, it’s all but certain that the Republican nominee will be Representative Connie Mack, IV (R-Fort Meyers). Quinnipiac’s poll from last time, which showed a lead for Mack over Democratic incumbent Senator Bill Nelson, now looks like an outlier. Their new poll, with a four-point Nelson lead, is more consistent with the broader trend. There appears to be more fluctuation in Florida’s Senate candidate polling results, even accounting for house effects, so it’s likely that the situation is less stable here than in, say, Nevada or Michigan, or even Virginia. The Sunshine State continues to look like it’s just barely into “Leans Democratic” territory. Real Clear Politics calls Florida a tossup, and I could be convinced to do the same, based on activities the state government is doing to depress Democratic turnout.
Starting in July, the zones will narrow, so it will take fewer points in spread to leave the “Tossup” column for one of the “Leans” columns, and also fewer points to go from “Leans” to “Likely”. This results from a combination of having more data points, which reduces error, and less remaining time for any candidate to move the needle.
As it has been for some time, the majority of the 113th Senate hangs in the balance. There are four tossups: Indiana, Massachusetts, Montana, and Virginia; plus a fifth that probably belongs there: North Dakota. It seems credible for Republicans to win at least three of those five, since they have structural advantages in all five. This is probably why Intrade is giving Republicans about a 57 percent chance of taking the Senate, up two points from two weeks ago, with a 32 percent chance of Democrats holding at least 51 seats (up six points from last time), and 17 percent chance of exactly 50 seats (up three points). Note that the three add up to 106 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?
- Senate Watch: June 9 (logarchism.com)
- George LeMieux quits Senate race (miamiherald.com)
- Dem Senate hopeful: ‘I have no connections to President Obama’ (azfamily.com)