The Latest Trends

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 24, 2016 — With the presidential race appearing just about wrapped up, the Senate races are taking the center stage for competitiveness. Some of the races are changing.

The first section identifies competitive races that now appear set:

Arizona – Sen. John McCain (R) now looks to be a strong bet for re-election, as he leads Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff) in all polling. Additionally, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) has pulled its media money, sending it to other states.

Illinois – Sen. Mark Kirk (R) appears in no position to overcome the strong Democratic trends that he faces. Therefore, Rep. Tammy Duckworth’s (D-Hoffman Estates) advantage should hold through Election Day, and she will become the new senator when the Congress convenes in January.

Iowa – Veteran Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) continues to cement his lead over Lt. Gov. Patty Judge (D). Neither party is emphasizing the race and the only October poll recorded (Des Moines Register/Selzer & Company; Oct. 3-6; 642 likely Iowa voters) again projects Sen. Grassley’s lead as approaching 20 points (53-36 percent).

Ohio – After being in a tough, virtually even battle for months with former Gov. Ted Strickland (D), first-term senator and former director of the Office of Management & Budget, Rob Portman, (R) is now running away with the campaign. Strong polling plus the DSCC and their outside allies pulling out of the state means that the senator will glide home to a safe re-election.

The following races are headed to the Democratic column:

Indiana – Though this campaign has tightened substantially from the days when former Sen. Evan Bayh (D) decided to re-enter the race after retiring in 2010, he is still well positioned for the opportunity to re-capture his former position. Democrats convinced former Rep. Baron Hill (D-Bloomington), winner of the May 3rd primary, to exit the race in order to pave the way for Bayh’s return. The latter faces a strong campaign from Rep. Todd Young (R-Bloomington), but the latest trend suggests that the former Senator and Governor will probably hold onto his lead and at least secure a close victory.

Wisconsin – After polling last week suggested that Sen. Ron Johnson (R) was finally making a late rebound into a more competitive stature against ex-Sen. Russ Feingold (D), the previous pattern has quickly returned. Two polls released this week, from Wisconsin Public Radio/St. Norbert College (Oct. 13-16; 664 likely Wisconsin voters) and Monmouth University (Oct. 15-18; 403 likely Wisconsin voters) project Feingold returning to leads of 12 and 8 points, respectively. It is once again probable that former Sen. Feingold will re-claim the seat he lost in 2010.

The following campaigns are seeing movement back toward the Republican side:

Florida – Three new polls were released during the past week and all continue to show Sen. Marco Rubio (R) leading Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter). According to Gravis Marketing, Public Policy, Polling, and Quinnipiac University, Rubio’s range is between +2 and +8. The survey trio means that 28 consecutive polls from early July to the present all find the first-term senator and former presidential candidate holding the advantage. The DSCC again reduced its media buy, sending another $2 million of Florida money to other states.

North Carolina – While the race between Sen. Richard Burr (R) and former state Rep. Deborah Ross (D) continues to move back and forth, six more polls were released last week. Five find Burr tracking with a small lead, ranging from one to eight points, while an additional survey projects a tie between the two.

Pennsylvania – Despite Donald Trump beginning to falter in the Keystone State (down four to eight points in the last five statewide surveys), Sen. Pat Toomey (R) is establishing a lead over former gubernatorial chief of staff Katie McGinty (D). The two studies released this week, from Quinnipiac University (Oct. 10-16; 660 likely Pennsylvania voters) and the Emerson College Polling Society (Oct. 17-19; 800 likely Pennsylvania voters), find Toomey holding an advantage of four and three points, respectively.

These campaigns appear to be flat ties:

Missouri – In the Show Me State Senate race, despite Donald Trump still maintaining a lead, the statewide contest between Sen. Roy Blunt (R) and former Secretary of State Jason Kander (D) has fallen into a virtual dead heat. The Emerson College Polling Society (Oct. 17-19; 600 likely Missouri voters) projects the two candidates to be attracting 44 percent support apiece. Three other polls released during the week from Monmouth University, Remington Research, and Emerson all see Trump continuing to lead Hillary Clinton, from five to eight points.

Nevada – The critically important Nevada Senate contest is now producing erratic results after consistently posting Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) to small leads. Three different polls from CBS News/YouGov, CNN/ORC, and Monmouth University see the race stretching between a five-point lead for Democratic former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (CNN), to a flat tie (CBS/YouGov), to a three-point Heck edge (Monmouth). This race can now clearly go either way.

New Hampshire – As it has polled for the entire year, the contest between Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) and Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) continues to languish in a virtual tie. Aside from the occasional anomaly, the two usually stay within a two-point range either way. The fact that Hillary Clinton has consistently led here since early August bodes well for Hassan in a state that has swung in polarized fashion between the two parties for the past ten years.

Re-cap – If the current trends continue, the final result of a 50-50 split or one party reaching 51 seats is still a viable resolution to the conglomerate of competitive campaigns. The Democrats still hold hope that they could stretch a new majority to 52 or even 53 seats if all of the competitives were to swing their way.

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