While since our last update on July 18th, President Trump has somewhat narrowed the presidential general election in nationwide polling (though Joe Biden still has a solid high-single-digit lead), he is still lacking in narrowing Biden’s margins enough in individual battleground states he needs to win re-election.
In Ohio, a state which has picked the president since 1964, Joe Biden has a slight lead in the polls right now. The Buckeye State had one of the largest swings toward Trump in the 2016 battleground states, thanks to his overperformance with white working class voters that year. Now the state’s polling shows a close race, and while Biden may have a slight lead in polling, we’d still say President Trump is a slight favorite in a state he won by 8 points. We can’t justify our “Lean R” rating for it though given the polling, so we’re moving it to Tilt R.
In Maine’s 2nd congressional district, we’ve finally got two polls there since our last update, one with Joe Biden winning the district by 3 points and another with President Trump winning it by 1. While Trump did win this district by 10 points in 2016, we can’t say he’s a favorite in the district given Maine’s notorious elasticity in its electorate. Thus, we’re moving the district from Lean R to Toss-Up.
In Michigan, the closest state in 2016, President Trump has gone dark on the air as he continues to slag in the polls there, seemingly ceding the state to Vice President Biden. Throughout this election cycle, Biden has always had a lead over Trump in the state, sometimes leading by double digits. Comparing that to 2016, when Trump led in two polls in Michigan and tied in another, it’s hard to see how he can win the state again right now. Since Biden is an overwhelming favorite in the state right now, we’re moving the state from Lean D to Likely D in our ratings.
Finally, in Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district, where President Trump also had a narrow margin of victory, President Trump is slacking. Two Democratic internal polls show him losing the seat, with one in July showing him down 7 and another by 11. While we don’t think he will lose the district by those margins, due to his sliding numbers in suburbs and metros across the country, we think he’s a slight underdog in the seat right now, so we’re moving the seat from Toss-Up to Tilt D.
This puts Biden at 269 electoral votes in our forecast, just one vote away from the magic number of 270, the amount of electoral votes he needs to win to become President. The overall race remains Lean D in our ratings.
- Ohio | Lean R → Tilt R
- Maine’s 2nd | Lean R → Toss-Up
- Michigan | Lean D → Likely D
- Nebraska’s 2nd | Toss-Up → Tilt D
Before this update, Biden had a 67.2% chance of winning, Trump had a 31.7% chance of winning, and there was a 1.1% chance of a tie. Now, after these rating changes, Biden has a 69.1% chance of winning, Trump has a 28.4% chance of winning, and there’s a 2.5% chance of a tie.
Republicans caught a break in Kansas on Tuesday, where standard Republican Congressman Roger Marshall beat out hard-right Kris Kobach, who lost the gubernatorial race there in 2018 to Democrat Laura Kelly. Had Kobach been the nominee, the race would have been moved to Toss-Up, making Republicans a major underdog in the chamber. Democrats nominated Republican-turned-Democrat, State Senator Barbara Bollier, who was losing to Marshall by 1 point in the most recent poll, but by 11 in another. We still think Bollier will lose by high-single-digits right now, but depending on what polling in the race shows, we may move the seat to Safe R. For now though, we’re moving the race from Lean R to Likely R.
The other good piece of news for Senate Republicans is that the Georgia Special election is likely to be a runoff between Republican appointed-incumbent Kelly Loeffler and Congressman Doug Collins, as the two lackluster Democratic candidates fight for third place in the polls. Democrats really missed out on recruiting a strong candidate for this race, and right now it looks like they’ll get locked out of the runoff as a result. Perhaps if one of the candidates drops out before the initial election, they can prevent this, but don’t count on it. As a result of the likely runoff between two Republicans, we’re moving the Georgia Special from Lean R to Likely R in our ratings.
Now for the bad news for Senate Republicans.
In North Carolina, Cal Cunningham has opened up a wide high-single-digit lead for himself in the race. Not only that, but Republican incumbent Thom Tillis hasn’t led in a single poll there since June 19, conducted by Gravis Marketing, which has a C+ grade from FiveThirtyEight. It’s hard for us to call this race a Toss-Up any longer due to the consistent polling lead Cunningham has developed for himself the past month and a half, especially now that it’s widened. So we’re moving this race from Toss-Up to Tilt D.
In New Hampshire, Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen has consistently dominated in the polling for her re-election bid, with a recent poll showing her up by 19 points. We simply do not see any evidence that this race is competitive, especially given that her opponent has no name recognition whatsoever. So the race is being moved from Likely D to Safe D in our ratings.
- Kansas | Lean R → Likely R
- Georgia | Lean R → Likely R
- North Carolina | Toss-Up → Tilt D
- New Hampshire | Likely D → Safe D
Because of these rating changes, Democrats are now the odds-on favorite in the chamber, though the chamber is still a Toss-Up in our ratings. Before this update, Republicans had a 45.0% chance of keeping their majority, Democrats had a 42.8% chance of creating a majority and there was a 12.3% chance of a tied chamber. Now, Republicans are down to a 39.3% chance of keeping their majority, Democrats have increased their odds of creating a majority to 46.6%, and the odds of a tie have gone up to 14.1%.
Republicans had gone into 2020 expecting that they would be the ones to make gains in the US House, even despite a recent court redraw of the North Carolina districts. Now, with less than 90 days before election day, they expect Democrats will be the ones to make gains now, and are focusing on preventing their minority from becoming an even smaller one.
Democrats have an even wider lead in the Generic Ballot polling than they did in the 2018 midterms, when they flipped 40 seats in the chamber. While they very likely won’t make such gains in the chamber this time, they are the definite favorites to have a net gain in the chamber. At the moment, we have Democrats favored to flip 5 seats held by Republicans: CA-25, TX-23, NC-02, NC-06 and GA-07. Republicans, meanwhile, are favored to flip Justin Amash’s seat, a Republican-turned-Libertarian.
District-wide polling in some of these races have shown Republicans are fighting for their lives in suburban seats they held onto in 2018, with Joe Biden leading the top of the ballot in almost every single one.
With these developments in the chamber, we have 18 changes in the US House: 17 leftward and 1 rightward.
- AZ-02 | Likely D → Safe D
- AZ-06 | Likely R → Lean R
- OH-01 | Likely R → Lean R
- IL-17 | Likely D → Safe D
- KS-03 | Likely D → Safe D
- KY-06 | Safe R → Likely R
- MN-08 | Safe R → Likely R
- NC-08 | Likely R → Lean R
- NC-09 | Safe R → Likely R
- NE-02 | Tilt R → Toss-Up
- NY-22 | Toss-Up → Tilt D
- TX-03 | Safe R → Likely R
- TX-21 | Tilt R → Toss-Up
- TX-02 | Safe R → Likely R
- IN-05 | Tilt R → Toss-Up
- TX-06 | Safe R → Likely R
- TX-25 | Safe R → Likely R
- IA-02 | Lean D → Tilt D
The US House remains to be a Safe D chamber in our ratings. Before this update, the odds of a Democratic majority were at 91.7% and the odds of a Republican majority were at 8.3%. Now, the odds of a Democratic majority are at 93.7% and the odds of a Republican majority are at 6.3%.
The Gubernatorial Races
The best news for Republicans in this update is in New England, where two gubernatorial races are being moved into the Safe R category. In Vermont, Governor Phil Scott has an enormous lead over his two potential opponents. In New Hampshire, Governor Chris Sununu is doing the same. It’s hard to see how either of these races, with extremely popular moderate Governors, could become competitive before election day, barring some sort of scandal.
The opportunity for Democrats’ trifecta wishes in these states hinged on winning the gubernatorial races, but now that they’re both Safe R the chances of Democratic trifectas in these states have evaporated.
- VT-GOV | Tilt R → Safe R
- NH-GOV | Lean R → Safe R
The State Legislatures
Campaign finance deadlines have passed in a number of states since our last forecast update, and as a result we moved 39 districts leftward and 5 districts rightward, another sign of continued Democratic dominance in fundraising from the top of the ticket to the bottom.
We also have some changes not related to campaign finance in state legislatures: in Arizona’s State Senate, an incumbent Republican State Senator who always has narrow re-elections was primaried out of her seat by a more conservative challenger. Similar to this, two Republican moderates in the Kansas legislature were primaried by conservative challengers, and an appointed conservative incumbent in a competitive State Senate seat beat his moderate challenger, who is a member of the Kansas House. You can read a more in-depth analysis of the Kansas primaries here by our oddsmaker and native Kansan, Jackson Martin.
Here are the rating changes in the state legislative districts where campaign finance wasn’t the primary factor for a rating change: four are in the leftward direction and two are in the rightward direction.
- AZ SD-06 | Lean R → Toss-Up
- KS HD-20 | Likely R → Tilt D
- KS HD-41 | Lean D → Tilt D
- KS HD-85 | Lean R → Likely R
- KS SD-10 | Toss-Up → Tilt D
- KS SD-11 | Safe R → Toss-Up
With all of the above rating changes, Democrats have moved three state legislative chambers towards them. The North Carolina House, the Michigan House and the Arizona Senate.
- NC House | Lean R → Tilt R
- MI House | Tilt R → Toss-Up
- AZ Senate | Tilt R → Toss-Up
Of the 5,235 single-member state legislative districts up this year in regular elections, 1,038 are competitive (331 Likely, 340 Lean, 218 Tilt, 149 Toss-Up), or 19.83%. 1755 are uncontested (906 Uncontested D, 845 Uncontested R, 4 Uncontested I), or 33.52%. 2442 are safe (1,125 D, 1,314 R, 3 I), or 46.65%.
72 districts are currently projected to flip (23 D to R, 1 I to D, 1 I to R, 47 R to D). In the State House/Assemblies, it’s 24 R to D, 17 D to R and 1 I to R. In the State Senates, it’s 23 R to D, 6 D to R, and 1 I to D.