Senate Watch: September 25
Today marks a shift in our regular Senate and Reëlection Watch schedules. Now that polling has increased in frequency, Senate Watches will run weekly on Tuesdays, with Reëlection Watches every Saturday.
It’s been a surprisingly active ten days. Here is the current map:
As always, “Continuing” refers to the seats in Senate Classes 2 and 3, which are not up for election this cycle. And, also as always, the details are below the fold.
Only eight states in contention were polled over these past ten days, but many have been polled heavily. Here the highlights of the past two weeks, walking from the Pacific to the Atlantic:
- Nevada: A new poll from Rasmussen, giving Republican incumbent Senator Dean Heller a one point unadjusted lead over Shelly Berkley (D-Las Vegas), (plus some comments from our regular readers) make me reconsider my assessment of Nevada as “Likely Republican”. Rasmussen’s poll adjusts to a half-point in Berkley’s favor, and represents an eight-point shift to the left from Rasmussen’s last poll at the end of July. I’m not ready to call this race a “Tossup”, but I’m certainly moving the Silver State a column to the left.
- Montana: One new poll from Mason-Dixon gives Representative Denny Rehberg (R) a three point lead over Democratic incumbent Senator Jon Tester. Montana is too lightly polled, the polls keep going back and forth between the two candidates, and the polls themselves have too large a margin of error for me to find this election anything but a “Tossup”. Intraders are more inclined to believe Rehberg will win here; he is given a 57 percent likelihood (down eight from ten days ago), with Tester at 45 percent (up one). It’s a lightly-traded market, though, so I don’t give much credence to it.
- Wisconsin: What a difference a month makes. When last we looked at the Badger State two Senate Watches ago, Republican former Governor Tommy Thompson had a comfortable and steady lead over Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison). Then the two national conventions came and went, and what was once a several point lead for Thompson has turned into a several point lead for Baldwin. CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac, Marquette University, Rasmussen, NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist, Public Policy Polling, and WeAskAmerica all saw a range of tie to a dozen points in Baldwin’s favor. A shift this large, and so close to the election, shifts Wisconsin to “Leans Democrat”. If it sticks into mid-October, we’re looking as “Likely Democrat”.
- Michigan: More evidence that Michigan is becoming safe for Democratic incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow. Three new polls, from Baydoun/Foster, MRG, and The Detroit News, all show her ahead of Representative Pete Hoekstra (R-Zeeland). The overall noise in Michigan polling has been a range of about ten points end to end, so the current range of five to 16 points is in line with history, and good enough to leave Michigan as “Likely Democratic”. Intraders agree, giving Stabenow an 86 percent chance (up a point from last time) to Hoekstra’s 14 percent (down nine).
- Ohio: Two new polls this time, from Rasmussen and FOX News. Both firms’ house biases are approximately the same, at about 1.5 points to the right of the consensus. Rasmussen gives incumbent Senator Sherrod Brown an eight point unadjusted lead (which adjusts to about 9.5 points) over Treasurer Josh Mandel. FOX came away with Brown up by seven unadjusted points (8.5 adjusted). Last time, I thought that, given how noisy polls have been in Ohio this year, we needed more time with Brown having a comfortable lead before moving Ohio from the “Leans Democrat” column to “Likely Democrat”, and I said I’d do it if we had a solid continuation of the trend. We do, and I am. Intraders are bullish for Brown, giving him a 72 percent chance (up seven from last time) to Mandel’s 34 percent (up nine from last time). It’s a rather lightly-traded market, though, particularly for Mandel, which accounts for the sum of the two being 106 percent.
- Florida: Five polls this time, from Rasmussen, Gravis, FOX News, WeAskAmerica, and Miami Herald/Mason-Dixon. All show incumbent Senator Bill Nelson with a lead over Connie Mack, IV (R-Fort Myers), other than Gravis, who saw Mack up by one unadjusted point (which adjusts to a three point Nelson lead). Last time, I said I was nearing the point where was going to move Florida to “Likely Democrat”, and was waiting to see if this is a temporary bump or a new plateau. It’s either at its peak and about to revert to the mean, or it will be a plateau. It hasn’t quite been enough time to tell, so I’ll leave it to next week. My gut says “plateau”, though.
- Virginia: Five new polls this time, in only ten days. This round, from Rasmussen, The Washington Post, Public Policy Polling, CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac, and FOX News, all had Democratic former Governor Tim Kaine ahead of Republican former Governor George Allen. PPP had the low number of one unadjusted point, which adjusts to one in Allen’s favor. The Washington Post had the high of eight points. I was not expecting any movement, considering how long the race has been stable at an up-the-middle tossup, but suddenly here we are. Virginia moves to “Leans Democrat”. Intraders are similarly confident in a Kaine victory, giving him a 68 percent chance of winning (up nine from ten days ago), to Allen’s 40 percent (up ten from ten days ago). With both having risen, and the total between the two of 108 percent, it’s clear that the trading is still too light to be especially meaningful.
- Massachusetts: Five polls, all since the two national conventions. Western New England University, Suffolk/7News, and WBUR/MassINC all saw significant leads for Democrat Elizabeth Warren over the Republican incumbent Senator, Scott Brown. Public Policy Polling had Warren up by two unadjusted points, which adjusts to a tie. UMass/Boston Herald found a four point lead for Brown. The overall trend is clearly in Warren’s direction. It’s enough to push the race to “Leans Democrat”. Intrade agrees; Warren is given a 59 percent chance to Brown’s 42.
It seems as if the nation lurched to the left in the past ten days. Massachusetts and Virginia went from “Tossup” to “Leans Democrat”, and Nevada moved from “Likely Republican” to “Leans Republican”, while Wisconsin jumped two columns, from “Leans Republican” to “Leans Democrat”. Our six tossups from before are whittled down to four: Connecticut, Indiana, Missouri, and Montana. Republicans’ best chance is Indiana, while Democrats’ best is probably Connecticut or Missouri. Montana is currently a real coin flip, mostly because of the paucity of data. Republican’s chance of taking over the Senate have decreased appreciably from last time. Moreover, North Dakota, which has been lightly polled for some time, may not still be “Leans Republican”; the absence of data leaves us effectively blinded there. The Intrade markets moved a decent amount: they now give Republicans about an 18 percent chance of holding at least 51 Senate seats (down a whopping 27 points in the last ten days), with a 60 percent chance of Democrats holding at least 50 seats (up an equally whopping 27 points), and still a 21 percent chance of either 48 or 49 seats.* The sum is 99 percent, which suggests that these markets are being traded heavily enough to carry some weight.
How credible do you think those market numbers are? Do you agree or disagree with my state analyses above?
*Editor’s note: Thanks to mclever for correcting me on the payout terms for the Intrade Senate markets.
- Rehberg holds 3-point lead over Tester in Senate race, Gazette poll shows
- Rasmussen Polls Should Be Shunned
- Senate Watch: September 15