Senate Watch: October 2
It’s October, and that means the Tossup and Leans categories narrow again, acknowledging that we have but a month left until Election Day. We have some movers this time, too, as the uncertainties of the upcoming election’s races continue to fade.
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.
Here the highlights of the past two weeks, walking from the Pacific to the Atlantic:
- Hawaii: This has been considered a marginally competitive race for a while, but the latest poll, from the Honolulu Civil Beat, has Democrat Mazie Hirono with a commanding 16 point lead over Republican Linda Lingle. Hirono has led in every single poll conducted through the entire race. This is still “Likely Democrat”.
- Nevada: Three new polls in the past week, with conflicting opinions. Public Policy Polling saw a four point lead for Representative Shelley Berkley (D-Las Vegas) over incumbent Senator Dean Heller. On the other hand, NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist and the Republican-leaning Nevada Retail Association both came away with Heller leads, by six and five points, respectively. I’m still not ready to call this race a “Tossup”, but I’m watching for a clearer trend. Intrade’s markets show Heller at 66 percent, and Berkley at 45 percent; the 109 percent total is illustrative of how lightly the Nevada market has been traded.
- Arizona: One new poll from Rasmussen shows Representative Jeff Flake (R-Mesa) with a six point lead over Democrat Richard Carmona. RealClearPolitics thinks that this race is a tossup, but a combination of Flake’s extraordinary charisma and the natural Republican lean to the state should continue to give him the edge. I’m not moving Arizona from “Likely Republican” until I see at least one credible poll with Carmona ahead. The Intrade markets agree, with Flake getting 75 percent to Carmona’s 27.5.
- New Mexico: a new Rasmussen poll shows Representative Martin Heinrich (D-Albuquerque) with a 13 point lead over his predecessor, former Representative Heather Wilson (R-Albuquerque). No change here; the Land of Enchantment is clearly enchanted by Heinrich, and stays “Likely Democrat”.
- Montana: No new polls this week. Intraders are inclined to believe Rehberg will win here; he is given a 60 percent likelihood (up three from last week), with Tester at 40 percent (down five). Trading frequency has been on the rise, so these numbers are more credible than many others.
- North Dakota: No new polls this week here, either. The Intrade markets agree with my assessment that Representative Rick Berg (R) has the edge; they give him 65 percent to Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp’s 43 percent. Of course, the 108* percent total tells us that the markets aren’t being traded very well.
- Missouri: Also a poll-less week, but Intraders are giving incumbent Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill a 66–33 edge over Representative Todd Akin (R-Wildwood). The overall consensus is that this is now McCaskill’s race to lose. If I went with my gut, Missouri would move to “Leans Democrat”, but the model, lacking new polls, is still stuck on “Tossup”.
- Wisconsin: Yet another state without any polls this week. But the Intrade market has been busy, and Republican former Governor Tommy Thompson is melting down against Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison). Baldwin is leading Thompson 68–37. I’m still waiting for a new round of polls to show a solid Baldwin lead in order to move the Badgers to “Likely Democrat”.
- Michigan: As if we needed more evidence that Michigan is safe for Democratic incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow in her race against Representative Pete Hoekstra (R-Zeeland). When Rasmussen and Gravis both show mid-teen leads for the Democrat, it’s game over. Unless some huge event occurs between now and next month, Stabenow will keep her job. Intraders agree, giving Stabenow an 86 percent chance (the same as a week ago) to Hoekstra’s 19 percent (up five). It’s now a safe enough race that it will drop off of the list, barring a shift to “Leans Democrat” between now and election day.
- Indiana: One new poll from Howey/DuPauw has Representative Joe Donnelly (D-Granger) with a two point lead over Tea Party candidate Richard Mourdock. Indiana is so lightly polled that we can’t really conclude anything from this other than it remains a tossup. Intrade markets show essentially the same thing, with Mourdock leading 52–49.
- Ohio: Five new polls were published in the past week. The University of Cincinnati and FOX News both have incumbent Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown ahead of Republican state Treasurer Scott Mandel by seven points, while CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac, The Columbus Dispatch, and The Washington Post show Brown leading by ten, ten, and 12 points, respectively. Even Gravis found a lead for Brown, albeit by a single point, but their extreme house bias to the right suggests a comfortable Brown lead. All in all, it’s enough for me to move the Buckeyes one column to the left; Ohio is now “Likely Democrat”. Intraders are even more bullish for Brown than they were a week ago, giving him a 75 percent chance (up three from last week) to Mandel’s 25 percent (down nine).
- Florida: Four new polls this time, from The Washington Post, CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac, Public Policy Polling, and Gravis. All but Gravis show incumbent Senator Bill Nelson with a lead over Connie Mack, IV (R-Fort Myers), ranging from nine to 14 points. Gravis, always the outlier to the far right, has them tied. Last time, I said I was nearing the point where was going to move Florida to “Likely Democrat”, and was waiting another week. It’s been a week, and Nelson’s lead is widening. Florida is now “Likely Democrat”.
- Virginia: Just one new poll this time, from Suffolk/WWBT, had Democratic former Governor Tim Kaine tied with Republican former Governor George Allen. One poll showing a tie isn’t enough to move Virginia out of “Leans Democrat”. Intraders are increasingly confident in a Kaine victory, giving him a 75 percent chance of winning (up seven from a week ago), to Allen’s 30 percent (down ten).
- Pennsylvania: This is a new state on the list. The Keystone State has been “Likely Democrat” the entire election cycle, reflecting high expectations of incumbent Democratic Senator Bob Casey, Jr., beating coal mine tycoon Tom Smith next month. Casey has had comfortable double-digit leads in all polls from June through August. Recently, though, the race has tightened somewhat. CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac and Morning Call have Casey leading by six and eight points, respectively. Though it hasn’t moved enough to jump to “Leans Democrat”, this is now a race to watch.
- Connecticut: While Republican Linda McMahon had a small lead over Democratic incumbent Senator Chris Murphy for a while, things seem to be turning back in Murphy’s direction. The Hartford Courant/UConn and Public Policy Polling show Murphy leads of four and six points, respectively. It’s not yet enough to move the state out of “Tossup”.
- Massachusetts: Three new polls, from Rasmussen, The Boston Globe, and WBUR/MassINC. The Globe saw a five point lead for Democrat Elizabeth Warren over Republican incumbent Senator Scott Brown*, and MassINC saw her ahead by four, but Rasmussen saw an unadjusted tie, which adjusts to just over a point in Warren’s favor. The overall trend is still in Warren’s direction. It’s enough to push the race to “Leans Democrat”. Intrade agrees; Warren is given an 85 percent chance (up an amazing 26 points in the past week) to Brown’s 29 (down 13 from a week ago).
- Maine: A few recent polls suggest that the Senate race here has tightened up, though not dangerously for independent Angus King, who is expected to caucus with the Democrats should he win. In the summer, King was leading by nearly 30 points. Now, the latest polls from Rasmussen, Public Policy Polling, and Maine People’s Resource Center show him leading Republican Charlie Summers by 12, eight, and 16 points, respectively. It’s still “Likely Independent”, but both Summers and Democrat Cynthia Dill have been whittling away at King’s lead, which is no longer a king’s lead.
Last week’s move to the left continues, with Florida and Ohio moving to “Likely Democrat”, though some states moved to the right within their categories. Our four tossups from last time remain: Connecticut, Indiana, Missouri, and Montana. Republicans’ best chance is still Indiana, while Democrats’ best is probably Connecticut or Missouri. Montana is still a coin flip, because of the paucity of data. The Republicans’ chance of taking over the Senate continues to decrease. 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 still give Republicans about an 18 percent chance of holding at least 51 Senate seats (same as last week), with a 67 percent chance of Democrats holding at least 50 seats (up seven points), and now a 16 percent chance of either 48 or 49 seats (down five points).
How credible do you think those market numbers are? Do you agree or disagree with my state analyses above?
*Editor’s Note: I erroneously listed the sum of the Intrade market in North Dakota as 109 percent, instead of 108 percent. And I had Senator Scott Brown’s first name wrong. I regret the errors.
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