By Jim Ellis
Sept. 24, 2018
US Senate makeup
— Today we continue our look at the most competitive 17 US Senate contests with our second and final installment. To take a look at our Part I recap, please see our writeup this past Friday at: Senate Recap – Part I
Sen. Dean Heller (R) is embroiled in an intense re-election battle with freshman Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson) as the two compete for a toss-up Senate seat. Heller won here in 2012 by a single percentage point over then-Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Las Vegas), but that was in the election when President Obama carried Nevada, 52-46 percent.
Polls go back and forth between the senator and congresswoman, but neither leads beyond the margin of polling error. Since the beginning of September three polls have been released, and the average spread between the contenders is just two points. This is a pure toss-up election and, as a Republican defense seat, one of the most important campaigns in the nation.
The Garden State is often a teaser for Republicans, meaning polls routinely suggest their candidates will fare better than actual results portend. The Senate race between incumbent Bob Menendez (D) and pharmaceutical CEO Bob Hugin (R) is likely no exception. Though several polls have indicated the race is competitive, it is probable that Sen. Menendez will pull away and score a comfortable win.
Polling has been scarce. The most recent survey was released in mid-August from Quinnipiac University (Aug. 15-20; 908 registered New Jersey voters) and projects the senator to be leading Hugin, 43-37 percent. Obviously, Menendez corruption trial that ended in the case against him falling apart and being dropped has taken a toll on his favorability index, but it is doubtful that even a 29:47 percent positive to negative personal approval rating (aforementioned Q-Poll) would cost him the election.
If polling were the only factor in determining race outlook, then North Dakota would be the Republicans’ best conversion opportunity. Though polls have been anything but plentiful, those that have been published find at-large Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck) leading incumbent Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D).
The most recent study came in early September from Fox News (Sept. 8-11; 701 likely North Dakota voters) and finds Rep. Cramer holding a 48-44 percent advantage. This is the first survey release since the beginning of July.
The North Dakota race is a strong Republican conversion opportunity, but though Cramer appears to have a discernible edge right now, this contest is far from over.