Saturday, January 23, 2010

Assessing the Landscape, Post-Massachusetts -- The Senate, The House and the President

Democrats are running scared. Republicans are triumphant. Scott Brown is a rock star (although it is his "available" daughter Ayla Brown who possesses the musical skills.) Health care appears to be on hold, at least for several weeks and may be massively scaled back after that. Cap and trade appears dead. President Obama has made an abrupt turn from talking health care to populist attacks on the financial system and a focus on jobs. The consensus in Washington is that Scott Brown's election changed everything for this year.

But did it really? Where exactly do we sit heading into the mid-terms and what should the parties be doing?

Presidential Approval
Interestingly, there is surprisingly little movement in the President's numbers. Since the MA shot heard round the political world, his number are actually up about a point, although still nothing impressive.

His monthly number still show a decline in January, which would make 11 out of 12 months that he would post a popularity decline. All of this leads me to a key conclusion about Massachusetts -- the earth didn't suddenly move, it has been shifting over the course of the past year. And the Democrats aren't out of business -- the President still has more people who approve of him than disapprove. It's just a much more closely divided nation than it was a year ago, a reflection of the President's complete failure to create a post-partisan or even bi-partisan environment on key issues (although, as we've noted before, despite the harsh rhetoric on both sides, there is a lot of bi-partisanship happening quietly.)

Latest Senate Calls
Massachusetts obviously comes off our tracking list with the victory of Scott Brown in the special election. He will be in office until the 2012 elections. So, we are now operating off a base of 57 Democrats, 41 Republicans and 2 Independents. Republicans now need a gain of 10 seats in order to gain control of the Senate, assuming the 2 Independents both stay with the Democrats when caucusing and counting on Vice President Joe Lieberman's tie-breaking vote.

A few updates, most of them favorable to the GOP, thanks to some newly-available polling. As always, I'll start with the races where I am moving my projection, then talk about relevant polling in other races.

Colorado -- some rare good news for the DEMs. Incumbent Senator Bennett is up by 1 to 3% in a new Research 2000 poll. This race moves from Lean GOP Pick-up to Toss-up.

New York (Gillebrand) -- assuming Pataki is the guy for the GOP, this one is a crap-shoot. Gillebrand leads Pataki by 3 points in a new Marist poll but trails him by 13 points in a new Sienna poll. That's enough to move this race from Lean Democratic Hold to Toss-Up.

Pennsylvania -- Pat Toomey is up by 9 points in the Rasmussen poll, the only recent poll available. This race moves from a toss-up to a Lean GOP Pick-Up.

Missouri -- as I suspected, Carnahan has slipped over the past few months and a new Rasmussen poll shows Blunt with a 6 point lead. It's not quite enough to move the race to the GOP column, but certainly enough to move the race from a Lean Democratic Hold to a Toss-Up.

Other races not moving:
California -- conflicting information here as incumbent Barbara Boxer is up by 10 to 17% against 3 potential challengers in a new Field poll, but only up by 3 to 6% against the same challengers in a similarly-timed Rasmussen poll. We'll leave this as a Lean Democratic Hold for now and wait for more information.

Arkansas -- incumbent Blanche Lincoln is leading 3 of 4 potential challengers in a Mason-Dixon poll but trailing all of them in a Rasmussen poll. Since the most probable nominee for the GOP is Gilbert Baker, the one who lead Lincoln in both polls, we'll leave it as a Lean GOP Pick-up, but we'll keep a close eye on it.

Louisiana -- A new poll shows incumbent Republican David Vitter comfortably leading by 18 points in this race. It remains a Likely GOP Hold.

All of this leaves us with:
Safe Democratic Holds (6)
Connecticut, Maryland, New York (Schumer), Oregon, Vermont, Washington

Likely Democratic Holds (3)
Indiana, Wisconsin, Hawaii

Lean Democratic Holds (2)
Illinois, California

Toss-Up -- Democratic Controlled (3)
Delaware, New York (Gillebrand), Colorado

Toss-up -- GOP Controlled (1)

Lean GOP Pick-Up (2)
Arkansas, Pennsylvania

Lean GOP Hold (5)
New Hampshire, Kentucky, Ohio, North Carolina, Arizona

Likely GOP Pick-Up (2)
Nevada, North Dakota

Likely GOP Hold (5)
Georgia, Alaska, Kansas, Louisiana, Florida

Safe GOP Hold (7)
Iowa, South Dakota, Alabama, Idaho, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah

Net Projection: GOP +3 to 7 Seats

Best Case GOP (all leaners): GOP +9 Seats
Best Case DEM (all leaners): DEM +4 Seats

So, as it has looked for months, the GOP appears poised to make in roads into the Democratic Senate majority, but appears to have little chance of regaining control.

House Look

Out generic average continues to be pretty steady with the GOP at +3.0%.
Projection: GOP +41 Seats
Republicans still appear poised to, very narrowly, regain control of the House.

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