Saturday, July 10, 2010

2010 Updates -- Is It Slipping Away from the DEMs?

The question all year has been the same -- not if the Democrats were going to lose seats in the House or Senate but how severe those losses would be. Looking at the trends, at the start of the year, the losses looked to be substantial, but not control-threatening in either House. Then came the special election of Scott Brown, the continued decline in the popularity of President Obama and increasing public outrage at continued tough economic conditions and huge budget deficits. For most of the spring and summer, the Democrats have been teetering on the edge of losing both houses of Congress, with, for the most part, it looking like a narrow escape in the Senate (49 or 50 Democrats eats plus 2 Democratic-caucusing Independents in most scenarios) with a less decisive view of the Senate (every look I've had in the past several months has been very close, with projected control flipping back and forth between the GOP and the DEMs.)

Now, in the summer, we have suffered through the BP disaster, the stock market pullback, and a slow, uneven economic recovery. So, it begs the question: are the Democrats on an irreversible downward trend that will cost them control of both houses of Congress?

My view is actually fairly unchanged...the landscape in the Senate makes it difficult, but not impossible for the GOP to regain control. The fact that races like California, Washington and Wisconsin are competitive gives the GOP a real, if outside shot. Those are the races to watch if you want to see who is going to control the Senate. There is no way the GOP can retake the Senate without winning some of those races and conversely, if the Republicans take all 3, I see no way for the Democrats to retain control.

The House vote is much more complex, given the myriad of districts involved. But, I think the GOP still has a far stronger shot at retaking the House on the basis of simple math -- they get to compete for 100% of the seats versus 36% for the Senate. The results of the House races in 2010 will actually not be long-lasting...all the seats will be redistricted in 2012 (except for the at-large seats in the small states) and this actually plays to the GOP's favor as they stand to control the vast majority of the Governor's Mansions when those changes are made.

So, let's assess where we stand.

First, the Senate:
As always, I'll start with the rating changes:

Colorado -- moves back from Toss-Up to Lean GOP Pick-Up as Buck has a 3 point lead in a new Survey USA poll, confirming an earlier Rasmussen poll that showed him leading. This will undoubtedly be a close race in November.

Pennsylvania -- moves back from Toss-Up to Lean GOP Pick-Up as the initial bump from the Democratic primary seems to have faded and Toomey has led in the last 3 polls, most recently a Rasmussen poll that had him at +6.

Wisconsin -- moves down from Likely DEM Hold to Lean DEM Hold with Russ Feingold potentially in real trouble in spite of Tommy Thompson not running, leading by only +1 and +2 in 2 new polls.

Arkansas -- moves from Likely GOP Pick-Up to Safe GOP Pick-Up as Blanche Lincoln trails horribly in new polling. Boozman is +29 points in the latest Rasmussen poll, which is the second straight poll with a 20+ point gap.

Hawaii -- moves from Likely DEM Hold to Safe DEM Hold as no credible GOP challenger has emerged in the state and Daniel Inoyue leads by 48 points in a Survey USA poll.

Illinois -- moves back from Lean GOP Pick-Up to Toss-Up as a new Rasmussen poll shows Democrat Giannoulis up by 1 in what will be a very closely watched race for President Obama's old Senate seat.

Kansas -- moves from Likely GOP HOld to Safe GOP Hold as Republicans lead by 30+ points in all 6 plausible match-ups for retiring Sen. Sam Brownback's seat.

West Virginia -- initiated as a Likely DEM Hold as it appears there will be a special election in November to backfill the late Robert Byrd and incumbent Gov. Manchin (D) leads by 14+ points in plausible match-ups.

Other polling in races that confirm earlier ratings:
Nevada -- a new Ramussen poll has Sharron Angle at +7 over majority leader Reid. Remains a Lean GOP Pick-Up.

California -- Barbara Boxer is +3 and +4 in 2 new polls. Remains a Lean DEM Hold.

Washington -- embattled Patty Murray is up +7 and even in 2 new polls. Remains a Lean DEM Hold.

Oregon -- a new Rasmussen poll has incumbent Ron Wyden at +10. Remains a Likely DEM Hold.

Missouri -- Roy Blunt is at +5 in a new Rasmussen poll. Remains a Lean GOP Pick-Up.

Kentucky -- Rand Paul is at +7 and even in 2 new polls. Remains a Lean GOP Hold.

Florida -- Crist is at +11 and -2 (to Rubio) in 2 new polls. Remains a Lean Independent Pick-Up, but will obviously continue to be closely watched.

Arizona -- McCain leads by 11 and 23 in 2 new polls. Remains a Likely GOP Hold.

North Carolina -- Burr leads by 10 and 15 in 2 new polls. Remains a Likely GOP Hold.

This leaves us with the following races:
Projected DEM Holds (11)
Safe Holds (4)
Hawaii, Maryland, New York (Schumer), Vermont

Likely Holds (4)
Oregon, Connecticut, New York (Gillebrand), West Virginia

Lean Holds (3)
California, Washington, Wisconsin

Potential DEM Pick-Ups (1)
Toss-Up - GOP Controlled (1)

Potential GOP Pick-Ups (8)
Toss-Up - DEM Controlled (1)

Lean GOP Pick-Up (3)
Nevada, Colorado, Pennsylvania

Likely GOP Pick-Up (2)
Delaware, Indiana

Safe GOP Pick-Up (2)
Arkansas, North Dakota

Projected GOP Holds (16)
Safe Holds (9)
Kansas, Louisiana, Iowa, South Dakota, Alabama, Idaho, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah

Likely Holds (5)
New Hampshire, North Carolina, Arizona, Georgia, Alaska

Lean Holds (2)
Missouri, Kentucky

Potential Independent Pick-Ups (1)
Lean IND Pick-Up (1)

Current Senate: 56 Democrats, 41 Republicans, 2 Independents, 1 Vacant (Caucus: 58 Democrats, 41 Republicans)
Projected Senate: 49-52 Democrats, 45-48 Republicans, 3 Independents (Caucus: 51-54 Democrats, 46-49 Republicans)

As you can see, the GOP would need to take all the Toss-Ups and 2 out of 3 in the Lean DEM Hold category to retake the Senate. As I said, it all comes down to California, Washington and Wisconsin.

In the House,
The current generic polling average of averages is at +1.6%. Given this, my projection is:

Current House: 256 Democrats, 178 Republicans, 1 Vacancy
Projected House: 222 Democrats, 213 Republicans

Realclearpolitics Projection (Splitting the Toss-Ups): 218 Democrats, 217 Republicans
Cook Political Report (Splitting the Toss-Ups): 239 Democrats, 196 Republicans
ElectionProjection: 230 Democrats, 205 Republicans

So, at this stage of things, Democrats are projected to retain the House by all the major sites, although realclearpolitics has the race for the House far closer than any of the others.

So, despite the perceived Democratic fall-off discussed above, the numbers appear very much in line with what we've been seeing all summer. But don't kid yourself, these campaigns will really get going around Labor Day and we could see big movement in one direction or the other. But it's definitely shaping up to be an exciting fall.

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