Sunday, March 28, 2010

2010 Elections -- Where We Stand

It's been almost a month since I provided an update as this space was heavily focused on health care reform legislation as it weaved its way to an endgame in congress. So, let's assess where things stand.

The U.S. Senate
There have been tons of polls in the past month, but the races have actually been relatively stable. We have 3 ratings changes, so I'll discuss those first, then look at the other races with available polls:

Pennsylvania -- moves back from Toss-Up to Lean GOP Pick-Up. This one has been back and forth between these two ratings categories this year, but Pat Toomey has led in the last 3 polls, with the last two showing 5 and 6 point margins respectively. He appears to be modestly ahead.

Nevada -- moves back from Lean GOP Pick-Up to Likely GOP Pick-Up. Reid has trailed by double digits in the past two polls - this one has flipped back and forth between these two categories as the lead has stabilized at around 10 points (the last two polls show Reid down 11), which is my cut-off for the category.

Wisconsin -- moves from Lean Democratic Hold to Toss-Up. This change has more to do with the news than the polling. The polling narrative hasn't changed -- Feingold trails Tommy Thompson by a small amount if Thompson runs and destroys all other GOP comers. This move reflects the increasing likelihood that Thompson will run, bolstered by reports from Thompson's inner circle that he is leaning towards running.

Other races that do not have a rating change, but have new polls:
Arkansas -- Blanche Lincoln is still down 7 to 8% against GOP challengers, according to a Rasmussen poll last week. Still a Lean GOP Pick-Up.

Indiana -- Many different potential match-ups, but the GOP is lead by 7 to 18 points depending on the candidates and the poll. This stays a Lean GOP Pick-Up, but could tilt further right later on, depending on the match-up.

California -- Barbara Boxer leads likely GOPer Carly Fiorna by 1%, 1% and 6% in the latest three polls. This is a close race, but remains a Lean DEM Hold.

Connecticut -- Blumenthal still leads by a super comfortable 26 to 33 points against all GOP candidates in the latest polls. Still a Safe DEM Hold.

New York (Gillebrand) -- same narrative -- Gillebrand continues to narrowly trail George Pataki and lead big against other potential GOP candidates. If Pataki announces, this goes to a Lean GOP Pick-Up, if he does not it becomes a Likely or Safe Democratic Hold. For now, we leave it a Toss-Up.

New Hampshire -- Ayotte is up 10 points in the latest Rasmussen poll, right at our cut-off. The prior two polls showed her lead in the high single digits. This stays a Lean GOP Pick-Up for now, but it is getting closer to the "Likely" category.

Kentucky -- potential GOPers for Jim Bunning's open seat lead likely DEM candidates by 5 to 9 points in latest polling. Stays a Lean GOP Hold.

Ohio -- Portman still up by 5 to 6 points, a margin that has been very consistent this year. It stays a Lean GOP Hold.

Missouri -- Blunt still +6% in the latest available poll, which is similar to earlier polling. Still a Lean GOP Hold.

North Carolina -- Burr's lead to retain his seat continues to grow. The latest Rasmussen poll has him at +16%. This stays a Likely GOP Hold.

Florida -- the race has closed a little. Rubio still comfortably leads Crist for the nomination and leads by a narrowing 11 to 14% in the general. This is still a Likely GOP Hold, but seems like less of a lock than a few months ago.

Iowa -- Grassley leads all comers by 19 to 29%. Still a Safe GOP Hold.

So this leaves us with:
(1) Democratic Holds (8)
Safe (4)
Connecticut, Maryland, New York (Schumer), Vermont

Likely (3)
Washington, Hawaii, Oregon

Lean (1)

(2) Potential Democratic Pick-Ups (0)

(3) Potential GOP Pick-Ups (10)
Democratic Controlled Toss-Ups (3)
Wisconsin, New York (Gillebrand), Illinois

Lean Pick-Up (5)
Arkansas, Delaware, Indiana, Colorado, Pennsylvania

Likely Pick-Up (1)

Safe Pick-Up (1)
North Dakota

(4) GOP Holds (18)
Lean (5)
New Hampshire, Kentucky, Ohio, Arizona, Missouri

Likely (5)
North Carolina, Georgia, Alaska, Kansas, Florida

Safe (8)
Louisiana, Iowa, South Dakota, Alabama, Idaho, Oklahoma, South Carolina Utah

Net Projection: GOP of 7 to 10 Seats

Best Case GOP (all leaners): GOP +11 Seats
Best Case DEM (all leaners): DEM +3 Seats

A few observations -- the GOP is approaching the upper-limit of what is possible in the mid-terms. The central case is actually pretty darn close to their best case -- with the exception of the 3 toss-up states and the California race that still Leans Democratic, they aren't many more competitive races to pick off. The other observation is that this is the first projection that shows the GOP with the potential to retake the Senate. They would need 10 seats to have a majority, or possibly 9 if they could peel off a switch in caucus loyalties from Independent Joe LIeberman or outcast moderate Democrat Ben Nelson. It is still not the most likely scenario, but the path is now plausible.

The House
In the House, our widest margin yet for the GOP in our average of averages, with the generic ballot question standing at GOP +5.6%. This would imply:

GOP Pick-Up of 50 Seats
Such a win would comfortably give the GOP control of the House, but as I've said before, this projection is a lot more prone to variation than the Senate projection and it has swung back and forth between more modest 25-30 seat losses and the heavier losses projecting now.

The Cook Political Report is tracking the 113 most competitive individual House races, 18 of which are Republican and 95 of which of Democratic. Of those, Cook presently projects 65 for the Democrats (almost all holds), 19 for the Republicans and 29 which are toss-ups.

This would imply a GOP pick-up range of +1 to +30 seats. However, if you throw in the "lean" races (of which there are 32 -- 29 currently held by Democrats and 3 currently held by Republicans), that range expands to GOP -1 to +60 seats. That is probably a more realistic range for what may happen, ranging from something close to a wash (unlikely, but possible) to a massive GOP landslide (also unlikely, but probably more possible than the wash.)

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