Monday, October 29, 2012

Another Senate Update

Oh, why not? If you ask me, the Senate races are one of the biggest underappreciated stories of this election cycle, and so even though I posted about it back on Thursday, I'm doing an update now.

The story then was that the Republicans had solid leads in states that would give them 43 seats; Democrats had leads that would give them 46. Seats. Of the remaining 11, five leaned to the Democrats, two were tossups with Democratic polling leads, and four were tossups with GOP polling leads.

Since then, there are two significant changes, one expected and one a bit of a shocker. The expected one is that Richard Mourdock's lead disappeared as soon as post-gaffe polling was available. The unexpected one is that Bob Kerrey, given up for dead in Nebraska, is apparently quite alive after all. So here's the update. I'm going to give two sets of numbers. First, the current HuffPollster Democratic lead or deficit, followed in parenthesis by last week's number; then, the current Nate Silver projection followed by last week's projection.

Leaning D Seats

CT Murphy    Pollster +5.6 (4.7);  Silver 86% (78)
MA Warren   Pollster +3.4 (3.5);  Silver 95% (89)
OH S. Brown Pollster +5.7 (4.5);  Silver 97% (93)
PA Casey       Pollster +5.2 (3.8);  Silver 94% (93)
WI Baldwin    Pollster +3.1 (3.8);  Silver 83% (85)

The story here is one of little movement, and therefore continuing Democratic strength. Tammy Baldwin remains the weakest of the five; her lead shrinks a bit, but we're also a few days closer to the finish line. As I said last time, it wouldn't be at all surprising if one of these wind up the other way, but a Dem sweep of five is probably much more likely than Republicans winning two or more.

Tossup with D Lead

VA Kaine     Pollster +3.0 (3.0);  Silver 92% (82)
MT Tester    Pollster +1.8 (1.6);  Silver 38% (43)
IN Donnelly  Pollster +0.6 (-4.9);  Silver 36% (36)

Donnelly's gains came from partisan polling, one on each side; 538 doesn't use those, and there are no nonpartisan public polls since October 11. It seems very likely that Donnelly took a lead post-gaffe; the question is whether it sticks (or even grows), or turns out to be just a bubble. On the other two, Virginia continues to look more like a Leaning D than a tossup, while Silver's model still doesn't trust Tester's very slim polling edge.

Tossup with R Lead

ND Heitkamp Pollster -0.6 (-2.7);  Silver 13% (18)
AZ Carmona   Pollster -1.2 (-1.2);  Silver 27% (31)
NV Berkley    Pollster -2.9 (2.6);   Silver 26% (28)

Nevada looks like Virginia: more of a leaner than a real tossup. In North Dakota, Heitkamp is staying close in Pollster's average thanks in large part to internal polls. They could be right! But situations in which one side is releasing their polls and the other isn't are likely to warp Pollster's averages. Likely, not certainly.

And the new kid on the block:

In Nebraska, Bob Kerrey has close Deb Fischer's lead in the HuffPollster average all the way down to 1.7 points. That's close! However, 538 doesn't buy it, at least not yet, giving Kerrey only a 13% shot at this one, and for whatever reason HuffPollster hasn't recategorized it; they still have it as Safe R. Presumably, if the trend line stays where it is, they'll eventually move it to at least Lean R.

Remember: if Republicans sweep all twelve of these, they get to 54 seats (all estimates assume that Maine counts as a Dem pickup). If Democrats sweep them, that's 58 seats. If the (apparent) polling leads hold everywhere, that's a 54D/46R Senate. If the Nate Silver favorite wins everywhere, it's 52D/48R, or 53D/47R if Dems win 538 projections plus Indiana.

I should also add: the two "safe" Democratic seats with leads under ten points are Missouri and Florida. I don't see any real reason for GOP optimism in either, but it's worth noting that there's no Republican safe seat, other than Nebraska, anywhere even remotely in reach. So if you want to project some hidden GOP surge, go ahead and add those two on for a maximum of 56R/46D.


  1. Nate Silver's trendline had the GOP actually taking control of the Senate through the end of August, but the Dems opened up a lead at that point, and it's only grown ever since. The more the Republicans campaign, the more ground they lose.

    That reinforces what you said in the piece over at PP: This is an exceptionally bad field of Republican senatorial candidates.

  2. It will be interested to see if this year's blown opportunity for the GOP keeps them short of the majority in '14 as well. If Obama is President, I wonder if they'll try to reconstruct a wave like '10 (minus the major mistakes).


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