Senate Watch: August 18
It’s been a lighter couple of weeks in Senate polling. Nonetheless, we did have one state move out of Tossup.
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: Nothing to report here, but I just want to remind you that, by our next installment, the Grand Canyon State will have its primary election, which will determine whether the Republican candidate will be Representative Jeff Flake (R-Mesa) or real estate executive Wil Cardon. The lack of polling in Arizona leaves this race especially opaque.
- New Mexico: A new poll, from a relatively unknown firm. Democrat-funded FM3 Research shows Representative Martin Heinrich (D-Albuquerque) ahead of his predecessor, former Representative Heather Wilson (R-Albuquerque) by nine points. The lack of history makes this particular poll a little suspect, but so are all the others in this race. It’s still a “Leans Democratic” state, but it’s hard to tell by how much.
- Missouri: It’s been another interesting past couple of weeks in the “Show Me” State. It looked like Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill was going to face former state treasurer Sarah Steelman or businessman John Brunner in November, but Representative Todd Akin (R-Wildwood) came out of nowhere to capture the Republican nomination. Akin has polled reasonably well against McCaskill for some time, staying mostly in the mid-single-digits ahead of the incumbent. The lone post-primary poll from SurveyUSA indicates an 11-point lead, which is far enough from the historical average to suggest that it’s an outlier. It could be a post-primary bump, akin to the bump candidates get after the national conventions. Or it could be a trend. Until we see which of these it is, Missouri still “Leans Republican”.
- Wisconsin: With the primary election over, we now know that former Governor Tommy Thompson will be the Republican running against Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison) in November. Thompson was the early favorite in matchup polls, but lately the gap had closed to the point where it’s very close between the two candidates. In the last two polls to release before the primary, CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac saw an unadjusted tie (which adjusts to a one-point lead for Baldwin), albeit with a polling range over an entire week; Marquette University ran a one-day poll that gave Thompson the lead by five. The one post-primary poll, conducted by Rasmussen, gives Thompson the edge by 11 unadjusted points. As in Missouri, we may be looking at evidence of a post-primary bump that will fade, or we may be looking at an outlier from Rasmussen. We’ll need another round to see what, if anything, these latest polls are telling us. In the absence of this, I’m leaving Wisconsin in the “Leans Republican” column. We’ll know better in two weeks.
- Ohio: Two new polls this time, one from Rasmussen and one from Public Policy Polling. Rasmussen saw an unadjusted tie between the two candidates, which adjusts to a one-point lead for incumbent Senator Sherrod Brown, over state Treasurer Josh Mandel. PPP, on the other hand, found a ten-point lead for the incumbent, which adjusts to about a six-point lead. I’m pretty well convinced that Rasmussen is delivering noise this week, since it’s the only poll to be outside the five– to 15-point range over the past several months. I’m still leaving Ohio in the “Leans Democrat” column, though I think our next installment will show a move to “Likely Democrat”.
- Florida: Only one poll this time, from Rasmussen, who saw a seven-point unadjusted lead for incumbent Senator Bill Nelson over his challenger, Connie Mack, IV (R-Fort Meyers). It adjusts to an eight-point lead. Florida’s polling has been relatively noisy, and Rasmussen’s particularly so, so this latest poll isn’t as convincing on its own as it might otherwise be. Nonetheless, the history is now suggesting that the outlier of the past month was SurveyUSA’s six-point Mack lead from a month ago, rather than those showing a modest lead for Nelson. I’m convinced enough to move Florida into the “Leans Democratic” column for the first time in a long time.
- Virginia: Rasmussen and CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac both polled here recently. While Rasmussen saw an unadjusted tie (which adjusts to a one-point lead for former Governor Tim Kaine over former Governor George Allen), Quinnipiac saw an unadjusted two-point Kaine lead, which adjusts to three points for the Democrat. The polling has stayed pretty close to a tie, and the error bars straddle the middle, so there is still not enough of a signal to toss Virginia out of the “Tossup” column.
- Connecticut: No new polls, but we now know who the Republican candidate will be. Former WWE executive Linda McMahon will be facing off in the ring against Representative Chris Murphy (D-Cheshire). With no new poll data, Connecticut stays a “Leans Democrat” state.
It’s been a quiet couple of weeks in Senate polling, and among the polls we’ve had, only Florida has had enough to move the needle. Our map hasn’t changed otherwise in a month.
And so, our former five tossups become four: Indiana, Massachusetts, Montana, and Virginia. It seems credible for Republicans to win at least two of the five, but winning two would not hand them the majority. The Intrade markets moved a little: they now give Republicans about a 50 percent chance of taking the Senate (down two points from two weeks ago), with a 31 percent chance of Democrats holding at least 51 seats (up two points from last time), and still a 20 percent chance of exactly 50 seats. The individual Senate race markets are too lightly traded to produce any meaningful data.
How credible do you think those market numbers are? Do you agree or disagree with my state analyses above?
- Senate Watch: August 4 (logarchism.com)
- In Senate Races, Politics Are Local Again (fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com)