Senate Watch: October 23
Time is running out, and so the margins of Tossups and Leans shrink yet again.
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 week, walking from the Pacific to the Atlantic:
- Nevada: Two new polls in the past week, from the Las Vegas Review Journal/SurveyUSA and Rasmussen. They show Republican incumbent Senator Dean Heller leading Representative Shelley Berkley (D-Las Vegas) by six and seven points, respectively. The overall adjusted margin is somewhere in the neighborhood of five points. The story is complex. On the one hand, this sort of relatively stable margin should mean “Likely Republican” this late in the cycle. On the other hand, last week’s Behavior Research Center poll in Arizona suggested that the ever-increasing Hispanic vote is not being adequately captured in most current polling methods. Perhaps this explains why the past two biennial elections have had Democrats overperforming the polls. I’m keeping Nevada “Leans Republican”, but I’m definitely curious to see how Berkley does relative to the polls. Intrade’s markets show Heller at 80 percent (up 11 from last week), and Berkley at 25 percent (down five).
- Arizona: No new polls this week, but Democrat Richard Carmona is seriously giving Representative Jeff Flake (R-Mesa) a run. As Arizonans learn about Carmona, they’re discovering that he is exceptionally centrist. The race, then, is between an extreme conservative (Flake is the third most conservative member of the House) and a centrist. Arizona is a conservative state, true, but on a statewide basis lies closer to Carmona than to Flake. If it were strictly based on the issues, Carmona would win. If it were strictly party line, Flake would win. And the advertising has gotten especially nasty and personal on both sides. It’s now too close to call, and Arizona stays “Tossup”. The Intrade markets are still confident about Flake; he’s at 76 percent (up 16 from last week) to Carmona’s 35 (down eight).
- Montana: One new poll, from Rasmussen, has Democratic incumbent Senator Jon Tester tied with at-large Representative Denny Rehberg. This adjusts to Tester leading by a point or so. A single poll that close to the middle isn’t enough to move Montana out of “Tossup” territory. Intraders are still inclined to believe Rehberg will win here, though not as much as last week; he is given a 70 percent likelihood (up five from last week), with Democratic incumbent Senator Jon Tester at 33 percent (down 12).
- North Dakota: One new poll, from Forum/Essman, shows Republican at-large Representative Rick Berg ten points ahead of state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp. If you look at the history of polls in North Dakota, this race has had Forum/Essman and Rasmussen showing huge leads for Berg, and Mason-Dixon showing a close race. It’s really hard to tell who’s right on this, but it’s either going to be really close or a Berg blowout. I’m calling North Dakota a “Tossup”, but really this is hugely bimodal, and it’s impossible for me to gauge which mode is correct. Intrade has at-large Representative Rick Berg at 85 percent (up three from last week) to state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp’s 15 percent (down a whopping 24), mostly reflecting the latest poll.
- Missouri: Two new polls here. Rasmussen, has Incumbent Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill leading Representative Todd Akin (R-Wildwood) by eight. Public Policy Polling shows McCaskill up by six. With these two polls, plus the historical data, it appears that WeAskAmerica’s poll from a couple of weeks ago was an outlier. Missouri moves to “Likely Democrat”. Intraders agree, giving McCaskill a 72 percent chance (up five from last week) to Akin’s 15 percent (down a remarkable 22). This is a rare case where the sum of the two candidates is less than 100 percent.
- Wisconsin: Three new polls this week, from Marquette University, NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist, and Rasmussen. They split the difference, with Marist showing Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison) ahead of Republican former Governor Tommy Thompson by four points, while Marquette and Rasmussen have Thompson up by one and two, respectively. Without the Rasmussen poll, Marquette would have looked like the outsider. With it, the story is more complicated. I know many liberals will simply dismiss the two polls, but that’s not reasonable to do here. I’m keeping Wisconsin at “Leans Democrat”, but it’s now closer to “Tossup”, pending another poll to gain a clearer picture. Intrade has Thompson at a 36 percent chance (down three from last week) to Baldwin’s 65 percent (down one). This brings the two roughly in line; the sum is 100 percent (plus rounding error).
- Indiana: One new poll from Rasmussen has Republican Richard Mourdock ahead of Democratic state Treasurer Joe Donnelly by five. The error bars are still too large to pull Indiana out of “Tossup”. Intrade markets disagree, with Mourdock leading with a 80 percent chance (up 14 from last week) to 26 percent (up 16). These wide swings suggest that the market isn’t very efficient for Indiana, perhaps a reflection of the opacity that comes from infrequent polling.
- Ohio: Five new polls were published in the past week. SurveyUSA, Rasmussen, and Public Policy Polling all saw Democratic incumbent Senator Sherrod Brown five points ahead of Republican state Treasurer Josh Mandel. CBS News/Quinnipiac and Suffolk found Brown up by nine and seven, respectively. No movement this week means Ohio stays “Likely Democrat”. Intraders give him a 87 percent chance (up 15 from last week) to Mandel’s 15 percent (down 13).
- Florida: Oddly, the Sunshine State’s Senate race was unpolled this week. Absent polling to the contrary, Florida remains “Likely Democrat”. Intraders agree, giving Nelson a 84 percent chance of winning (up four from last week) to Mack’s 14 percent (up one).
- Virginia: One new poll was published this past week. Rasmussen found Democratic former Governor Tim Kaine leading Republican former Governor George Allen by one point. While this confirms WeAskAmerica’s previous poll as an outlier, it’s not nearly enough of a margin to move the Old Dominion into “Leans Democrat”. Virginia stays “Tossup”. Intraders are still confident in a Kaine victory, giving him a 72 percent chance of winning (down one from a week ago), to Allen’s 34 percent (down four).
- Pennsylvania: Three new polls this week. Morning Call, Public Policy Polling, and Quinnipiac show Democratic incumbent Senator Bob Casey leading CEO Tom Smith by two, 11, and three points, respectively. PPP is almost certainly the outlier this week. With momentum in Smith’s favor, Pennsylvania moves to “Leans Democrat”. Intraders still have high expectations of incumbent Democratic Senator Bob Casey, Jr., beating coal mine tycoon Tom Smith next month. They give Casey a 90 percent chance of winning (down four from last week), to Smith’s 25 percent (up 14). The wide Smith swing, coupled with the sum of the two candidates being 115 percent, suggests inefficiency in at least Smith’s submarket.
- Connecticut: Two new polls this week. Hartford Courant/UConn has Representative Chris Murphy (D-Cheshire) six points ahead of Linda McMahon, while Siena has Murphy up by two. Connecticut remains “Leans Democrat”. Intraders agree, giving Murphy the edge with a 66 percent chance (down nine from last week), to McMahon’s 37 percent (down eight). The two submarkets appear to be correcting for being well over 100 percent last week.
- Massachusetts: No new polls, so Massachusetts stays “Leans Democrat”. Intrade is less confident than last week; Warren is given a 72 percent chance (up three points in the past week) to Brown’s 27 (down eight from a week ago).
- Maine: No new polls, but Intraders are still bullish on independent Angus King, who is expected to caucus with the Democrats should he win. They give King a 92 percent chance of winning (up one from last week), to six percent for Republican Charlie Summers (unchanged) and four percent for Democrat Cynthia Dill (unchanged). It’s still “Likely Independent”.
Two states swapped columns this week. Missouri shifted left to “Likely Democrat”, while Pennsylvania swung the other way, into “Leans Democrat”. Our five tossups from last week remain: Arizona, Indiana, Montana, North Dakota, and Virginia. Republicans’ best chance is probably Arizona, though they have a slight advantage in all but Virginia; Democrats’ best chance is Virginia. The Republicans’ likelihood of taking over the Senate was unchanged this week in my model, but was essentially unchanged in markets this week; Intrade markets give Republicans about an 25 percent chance of holding at least 51 Senate seats (up one from last week), with a 66 percent chance of Democrats holding at least 50 seats (up three), and now a 11 percent chance of either 48 or 49 seats (down two). In the individual number markets, Intraders are most inclined to believe that Republicans will hold 48 seats.
How credible do you think those market numbers are? Do you agree or disagree with my state analyses above?