Battle of the Pollsters

Voter_pollIf CBS News and the New York Times are to be believed, Republicans are cruising towards an Election Night victory. The latest CBS/NYT poll shows Republicans leading by seven points in the generic ballot. Considering that the GOP lost the total Congressional vote by a point in 2012 and still retained their majority by a reasonable margin, a seven-point lead indicates a measurable bump in seats for Republicans.

When CBS/NYT polled the Senate races they found Republicans leading by at least four points in five seats currently held by Democrats. Altogether, the GOP led in eight races with Democratic controlled seats. Should their numbers hold up on Election Day, Republicans would have 53 Senate seats in the next Congress.

The CBS/NYT polls are not alone in their predictions of a GOP wave. The generic ballot poll conducted for Fox News also shows Republicans leading by seven points. Quinnipiac found Republican Cory Gardner leading Democratic incumbent Mark Udall in Colorado by eight points and Republican Joni Ernst leading her Democratic opponent Bruce Braley by six points in Iowa. If Gardner and Ernst manage to win by half those margins it will be a very good evening for Republicans.

Despite these polls, Democrats believe they have a chance to keep their Senate majority. A Republican pollster shows Kay Hagan cruising to re-election with a 10-point lead in North Carolina. Two polls in Georgia show Democrat Michelle Nunn leading Republican David Perdue. A Nunn win would virtually end any chance the GOP has of retiring Harry Reid as majority leader.

Rasmussen Reports, once every Republican’s favorite pollster, has been particularly bullish on Democratic chances this election season. Rasmussen gives Democrats good news from the top down. President Obama is staying over 45% and occasionally approaches 50% job approval among likely voters while Democrats have a three-point lead in the generic ballot. According to Rasmussen, Republicans trail by one point in Arkansas (he is the only pollster showing Democrats with a lead) and trail by six in North Carolina. The GOP’s chances of winning a majority are a coin toss at best according to his polls.

The polling situation is similar to 2012 with the roles reversed. According to the 2012 polls, Mitt Romney’s best-case scenario was a split decision while Obama had the potential for a comfortable victory. Ultimately, the pollsters who favored Obama were correct because they accurately predicted the very favorable Democratic electorate.

This year Republicans have the potential to win as many as 10 seats if everything goes their way while Democrats are hoping to hold the GOP gains to four or five seats as a best case scenario. Should the electorate split the difference the GOP will win a Senate majority.

Elections are ultimately decided by the make-up of the electorate on Election Day. It is the job of the pollsters to tell us ahead of time what the electorate will look like. This year it looks like there will be clear winners and losers in the polling industry no matter what the final results are.

 

2014 Alaska Senate Race

Alaska

Recent Presidential Elections

2012 Presidential Election: Romney 55, McCain 41
2008 Presidential Election: McCain 59, Obama 38
2004 Presidential Election: Bush 61, Kerry 38
2000 Presidential Election: Bush 59, Gore 28

Alaska Elected Representatives

Senate Delegation: Lisa Murkowski (R – 2002), Mark Begich (D- 2008)
House Delegation: 1 Republican
Governor: Sean Parnell (R- 2009)
State Senate: Republican 26, Democrats 14
State House: Republicans 13, Democrats 7

2014 Alaska Senate race  Continue reading

Generic ballot shifts towards Republicans

Last week brought good news for Senate Republicans now this week brings good news for House Republicans. The last four public polls have shown Republicans leading in the generic ballot by an average of 3.25 points. This is significant considering that Republicans maintained their majority in 2012 while losing the House vote by one percent.

Particularly noticeable is the change in the CNN and Washington Post generic ballot polls. When CNN polled the House election in July they found Democrats with a four point lead. Republicans now hold a four point lead for an eight point net change. The Washington Post found a three point lead for Republicans, which indicates a net five point change in their favor since their last poll in June.

Some of this change is attributable to pollsters changing to “likely voter” models as the election approaches. This does not make these polls any easier to accept for Democrats because it confirms their fears that their voters are not as motivated as Republican voters. This proved fatal to them in 2010 and may cost them House Seats again in 2014 if the generic ballot polls are accurate.

Roberts still favored to win Kansas Senate race

Robert - KS Despite the attempt by Democrats to consolidate support behind Independent candidate Greg Orman, Republican Incumbent Pat Roberts is still the favorite to maintain the Kansas Senate seat he has held for the past 18 years. While Roberts is certainly unpopular, the heavy Republican lean of the state and the political optics of Democratic candidate Chad Taylor’s withdrawal will make victory for Orman an uphill fight.

One big complication for Orman will be the ruling by the Republican Secretary of State, which leaves Taylor on the ballot as the Democratic nominee. Taylor’s mere presence on the ballot will likely draw at least a small margin from party line Democratic voters and decrease Orman’s potential share of the vote. The Kansas Democratic party will also have a a difficult time supporting Orman and getting their voters out in support of him without compromising Orman’s independence.

There is a reason why independents rarely succeed in winning major competitive political races. In order to establish their independence, a candidate must separate themselves  from the state and national political parties. However, the parties provide crucial support both in fundraising and voter turnout. Roberts will start with a significant organizational advantage over Orman.

In a state like Kansas the question of who he will caucus with will also plague Orman. Most likely, he will try to be coy and not commit, but this will only  make him seem like a typical politician.

Right now, the Kansas Senate race is a referendum on Orman. The voters know Roberts – for better or worse – and will ultimately decide whether or not they believe Orman is an ideologically acceptable alternative.

CBS/NY Times senate polls confirm Democrat fears

CBS News and the New York Times created a panel of 100,000 voters who they intend to interview four times between July and Election Day. Their first set of senate polls produced a Republican Senate with the GOP holding leads in 53 races.

The survey tracks very closely with Republican optimal scenarios with Michigan included as a bonus. For Democrats, the survey is everything they feared. For starters, CBS/NYT finds Republican Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell at 50% and leading by four points over Alison Lundergan Grimes. In Georgia, Republican David Perdue is also at 50% and leads Michelle Nunn by six.  Conventional wisdom said Democrats would lose those red states, but for some time polling has shown the races as toss-ups. The GOP now appears to be to be taking these races off the table.

Republicans holds large leads with Mike Rounds in South Dakota (61-34),  Steve Daines in Montana (56-40), and Shelley Moore Capito (51-43) with a somewhat diminished lead in West Virginia. This puts them at 48 seats.

The GOP adds five more seats from Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina. However, with the exception of Arkansas these are one point races.

Arkansas – Tom Cotton 50, Mark Pryor 46
Iowa -Joni Enrst 48, Bruce Braley 47
Louisiana – Bill Cassidy 47, Mary Landrieu 46 (need 50% to avoid run-off)
Michigan – Terri Lynn Land 48, Gary Peter 47
North Carolina – Thom Tillis 48, Kay Hagan 47

Good news for Democrats is scare, but not non-existent. Colorado incumbent Mark Udall has a four-point lead over Cory Gardner (51-47) while Alaska incumbent Mark Beghich leads both of his potential Republican challengers. Democratic incumbents also hold double digit leads in Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Virginia (although Republican Ed Gillespie significantly closed the gap from other polls).

While the Republican advantage is certainly helped by the four statistically insignificant one point leads (although the margin of error was much lower in the key states than other polls),  the CBS/NYT Senate polls demonstrate the strength and depth of the GOP field this year. Republicans could lose two of their one point leads and still win a majority. They are also close in Alaska and Colorado, which gives them five chances for seat number 51.

2014 North Carolina Senate race

NC-7

Recent North Carolina Presidential Elections

2012 Presidential Election: Romney 50, Obama 48
2008 Presidential Election: Obama 50, McCain 49
2004 Presidential Election: Bush 56, Kerry 44
2000 Presidential Election: Bush 56Gore 43

North Carolina Elected Representatives (party – year elected)

Senate Delegation: Richard Burr (R – 2004), Kay Hagan (D- 2008)
House Delegation: 9 Republicans, 4 Democrats
Governor: Pat McCrory (R- 2012)
State Senate: Republicans 77, Democrats 42
State House: Republicans 33, Democrats 17

2014 North Carolina Senate race 
Continue reading

2014 Senate Races – July update

Senate 2014 - 0723

 

Good news for Democrats: Their tough races in red states are not being nationalized. Their fundraising and candidates in Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina are still running strong, particularly in North Carolina where Kay Hagan is building a small,  lead over the very unpopular Tom Tillis. If these races remain candidate-based Democrats have a chance to maintain their majority.

Good news for Republicans: Iowa and Colorado have moved into toss-up territory.  Republicans have capitalized on weak Democrats in those states and expanded the map. In Montana, their brief worries that the short-time Democratic incumbent might be back in the race abated when a plagiarism scandal all but ended the race (again).

Projection –  Democrats 50, Republicans 50 

Current Senate make-upDemocrat 55 (including 2 independents)Republican 45.

Seats not up for re-election – Democrat 34, Republican 30.

Safe Democrat (6)-  Delaware, Hawaii*, Illinois*, Massachusetts*,  New Jersey*, Rhode Island*

Lean Democrat (5)-  Minnesota*, New Hampshire*, Oregon*New Mexico*, Virginia*,

Slight Lean Democrat (3)- Colorado*, Michigan, North Carolina*

Toss-up (4)Alaska*, Arkansas*, Iowa, Louisiana*, 

Lean Republican (5) - Georgia, Kentucky*, Montana, South Dakota, West Virginia

Safe Republican (13)- Alabama*, Idaho*, Kansas*, Maine, Mississippi*, Nebraska, Oklahoma (2), South Carolina (2)*, Tennessee*, Texas*, Wyoming*

*Denotes incumbent is running

Races most likely to change parties
1. South Dakota (75%) Polls, candidate, environment, and terrain favor GOP. 
2. West Virginia (75%) Polls, candidate, environment, and terrain favor GOP.
3. Montana (75%) Polls, environment, and terrain favor GOP.
4. Louisiana (50%) Terrain and environment favor GOP. Solid Democratic incumbent. Looks like a December run-off.
5. Arkansas (50%) Terrain and environment favor GOP. Solid Democratic incumbent.
6. Alaska (50%) Terrain and environment favor GOP. Strong Democratic incumbent.
7. Iowa (50%) Republicans got their candidate. Terrain slightly favors Democrats, while environment slightly favors Republicans.
8. Colorado (45%) Terrain slightly favors Democrats. Environment favors GOP. 
9. North Carolina (45%) Terrain and environment slightly favor GOP. Mediocre Democratic incumbent, fractured GOP. Republican candidate has very high unfavorables.
10. Michigan (40%) Terrain favors Democrats. Environment slightly favors Republicans. Democrat is starting to build a small but consistent lead.
11. Kentucky (40%) Terrain and environment favor GOP. The later it gets with the race still tied, the more vulnerable McConnell looks.
12. Georgia (40%) Terrain and environment favor GOP.  Solid Democratic candidate. 
13. Minnesota (15%) Terrain and candidates favors Democrats.         14. New Hampshire (15%) Terrain and candidates favors Democrats.
15. Virginia (5%) Terrain and candidates favors Democrats.

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