Saturday, December 5, 2009

2010 Election Updates -- Democrats Still Holding On, At Least for Now

Below are the latest updates for the 2010 election. Let me qualify them by saying that generally speaking, my projections are going to be a lagging indicator, at least until we get heavy into the election season. This is because, while we have a number of tracking polls that release new polling data on President Obama's approval rating every day (Gallup, Rasmussen, etc.), 2010 Senate polls and generic House ballot polls are a little harder to come by. What that means is that to the extent that President Obama's sliding approval ratings impact Senate and House races, we may not see the full effect in these projections for a couple of weeks. As I always do, I want to use real polling data to project results, not a projection on top of a projection. Plus, it is difficult to tell from national Presidential polls what the impact on state-level races will be.

With all of those qualifiers, despite the headwinds the Democrats face, they are actually faring reasonably well, at least in the Senate. Of course, less is at stake in the Senate in 2010 than in the House -- only a little over a third of the seats are up, of course, and to a large extent, the map is favorable to the Democrats, since this is essentially a replay of the 2004 Senate elections, while the Democrats made their large gains in the 2006 and 2008 races, which won't repeat until 2012 and 2014 respectively.

So, here are the latest projections:

2010 Senate

A few changes to report here and they are mixed in direction -- I will report on those changes, as well as other races that do have not changed in projection but have new polling data:
Connecticut -- moves from Lean GOP Pick-up to Likely GOP Pick-up. As improbable as it would have sounded just a year ago, this dark blue state now shows Chris Dodd behind by 10 to 11% in the latest polls. He is in big, big trouble.

Delaware -- moves from Lean GOP Pick-up to Toss-up-- a new Susquehenna poll has Beau Biden up by 5%. Castle (who is running) has led in other recent polls, so this is not enough to tip this race back into the blue column, but certainly puts the outcome back up in the air.

New Hampshire -- moves from Toss-up to Lean DEM Pick-up -- Hodes leads anywhere from 1 to 5% in three new polls. While these leads are small, the breadth and direction of the polling, puts this one back marginally in the blue column.

New York (Gillebrand) -- remains a Lean DEM Hold -- she is anywhere from down 2% to up 5% versus Pataki and way up on Rep. Peter King. If Pataki is in, this is a toss-up, if Pataki is out, this is a safe hold.

Illinois -- remains a toss-up. The race to replace the embattled Sen. Roland Burris, appointed by disgraced ex-Gov. Blago is a dead heat in the last poll we have.

Pennsylvania -- remains a toss-up. Specter is up 5% in one poll, down 2% in another -- still no clear direction in this race.

Missouri -- remains a Lean DEM pick-up -- DEM's are up from 1 to 3% in a variety of polls. This one is razor-close, but is still directionally in the DEM column.

Ohio -- remains a Lean GOP Hold -- Portman is up 3 to 5% in the latest two polls.

Florida -- remains a Safe GOP Hold -- while Crist is taking some heat from the right, he is still heavily favored in the Republican primary and is up 17 to 31% in general election polls. If Crist starts to fall behind in the primary, I will re-evaluate. Republicans would be crazy not to nominate him.

This leaves us with:
Safe DEM Holds (7)
Hawaii, Maryland, New York (Schumer), Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin

Likely DEM Holds (4)
California, Indiana, North Dakota, Massachusetts*
* Special election to be held in January

Lean DEM Holds (2)
Arkansas, New York (Gillebrand)

Lean DEM Pick-ups (2)
Missouri, New Hampshire

Toss-up -- DEM Controlled (3)
Pennsylvania, Illinois, Delaware

Toss-up -- GOP Controlled

Likely GOP Pick-up (1)

Lean GOP Pick-up (2)
Colorado, Nevada

Lean GOP Hold (3)
Kentucky, Georgia, Ohio

Likely GOP Hold (7)
North Carolina, Alaska, Arizona, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota, Louisiana

Safe GOP Hold (6)
Florida, Alabama, Idaho, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah

Which leaves us with a projection of:
GOP Pick-up of 1 to 4 seats (central projection -- GOP +2 seats)

So, depending on the toss-ups, the new Senate would have 54 to 57 Democrats, plus 2 independents. Democrats would lose their filibuster breaking super-majority, but would retain a healthy margin.

The best case scenario for the GOP, that they take all the leaners, would lead to a GOP pick-up of 8 seats, leading to a new Senate with 50 Democrats, 48 Republicans and 2 Independents. This would still ensure Democratic control as the 2 Independents vote with the Democratic caucus and Vice-President Joe Biden is the tie-breaker in the event of a 50/50 split regardless.

In the House,
Generic polls are still all over the place, but I rely on my faith that aggregation produces the best results, reducing the impact of individual poll bias. The averaging shows:
GOP +0.5%

This leads to a projection of: GOP +30 Seats
Republicans would need a gain of 40 seats to regain control of the House. They don't have this kind of margin yet (unless you believe the more favorable polls that have their generic margin greater.) While it may seem kind of odd that an aggregation of polls that shows the GOP getting more votes wouldn't lead to a GOP majority, this has to do with the way the districts are drawn, which is marginally favorable to the Democrats, thanks to their greater control of redistricting after the 2000 census. This is the last election cycle that uses those districts, congressional seats will be reapportioned and redrawn for the 2012 election, following the 2010 census.

At present, the GOP would need to be at about +3% in order to retake the House. Still a tall order, but they are getting a whole lot closer than they were, even a few months ago.

It continues to appear that the GOP has a shot at taking the House in 2010, but little chance of retaking the Senate. Retaking the House would be huge for the GOP as they would essentially have the power to stop all tax and revenue bills, which constitutionally must pass the House before they are even considered in the Senate.

We have a long way to go before the 2010 mid-terms, so a lot could change in either direction. But the mid-terms are shaping up to be a very exciting set of races.

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