Forecast Update | US Senate a Toss-Up, New NC Data, NE & OR Primaries

In today’s forecast update, 21 days since our last, we have 23 rating changes for a whole variety of reasons. 15 are in the favor of Democrats, and 8 are in the favor of Republicans. Most of these changes are in state legislatures, with a good chunk in the state of North Carolina. We’ll work our way down the ballot with all of these rating changes, starting with the US Senate.

We are making two changes in our US Senate ratings, both in the favor of Democrats. In Colorado, a recent couple of polls saw former Governor John Hickenlooper (D) have a wide lead over incumbent Senator Cory Gardner (R): one had Hickenlooper up 17, and another had him up 18. Before this, the last poll conducted for this race had Hickenlooper up 11 in October. Two more polls had Hickenlooper up 13 in August. The only poll Senator Gardner has led in was a poll in September, up by 6, though the poll had a lot of undecided voters so we cast doubt on its accuracy. Given the tough environment for a Republican in Democrat-controlled territory, it’s unsurprising to see Cory Gardner struggle. With an average double digit lead for Hickenlooper, we’re moving this race from Lean D to Likely D.

In Montana, a poll earlier this month had incumbent Governor Steve Bullock (D) beating incumbent Senator Steve Daines (R) by 7 points, an astounding result. This is likely due to most Governors across the country seeing a bump in their approvals, with the incumbency advantage for Governors being stronger than ever before during a nationwide pandemic, as the Crystal Ball laid out here. The only other poll conducted for this race was conducted in March (when Bullock entered the race) and it showed a tie, though it was conducted by a Democratic pollster. Since Donald Trump is certain to win Montana this November though, history is against Bullock winning, as Seth Moskowitz explained in the Crystal Ball: it’s an extreme rarity for an incumbent senator to lose re-election while their party’s presidential candidate carries their state. Still, given the polling, we see only a slight edge for Senator Daines right now, so we’re moving the race from Lean R to Tilt R.

US Senate Rating Changes

  1. CO-SEN | Lean D → Likely D
  2. MT-SEN | Lean R → Tilt R

Because of these ratings changes, the US Senate is now a Toss-Up in our book. In our last update, the odds showed that there was a 55.6% chance of a Republican majority, a 32.1% chance of a Democratic majority, and a tie at 12.3%. As of now though, the odds of a Republican majority are at 52.1%, a Democratic majority at 35.0%, and a tie at 12.9%.

In the US House, we also have two ratings changes, and each of these rating changes will be in races that are now favored to flip to the other party, with one in the leftward direction and one in the rightward direction. Due to Justin Amash not seeking re-election (and ultimately dropping his bid for the Libertarian nomination for president), we are moving the race from Toss-Up to Likely Republican, with Republicans now favored to flip a seat in the US House (from an Independent).

Due to the CA-25 special election, where Mike Garcia (R) beat Christy Smith (D) in a district that voted for Hillary Clinton, we are moving this race from Lean D to Tilt D. We ultimately see this district going back to the Democrats in November, when the turnout will be far higher than that in the special election, but the special election results probably indicate a far tighter election than the district saw in 2018.

US House Rating Changes

  1. MI-03 | Toss-Up → Likely R
  2. CA-25 | Lean D → Tilt D

Going into our state legislative rating changes, we’d like to thank ECaliberSeven on Twitter for finding out the 2018 state legislative results in North Carolina’s recently redrawn districts: this dataset is extremely useful and as a result we have 9 rating changes in the State House: 5 in the leftward direction and 4 in the rightward direction.

  1. NC HD-21 | Lean D → Likely D
  2. NC HD-36 | Lean D → Likely D
  3. NC HD-37 | Tilt D → Toss-Up
  4. NC HD-40 | Likely D → Safe D
  5. NC HD-45 | Lean R → Toss-Up
  6. NC HD-59 | Tilt R → Lean R
  7. NC HD-74 | Toss-Up → Tilt R
  8. NC HD-82 | Toss-Up → Tilt R
  9. NC HD-105 | Lean D → Likely D

We also have recently identified more open seats in state legislatures where the loss of the incumbency advantage has damaged the chances of the district’s controlling party holding onto their respective seat, with 4 in the leftward direction and 1 in the rightward direction.

Only two are really consequential. The first is IA HD-64, where Bruce Bearinger (D)’s decision to not seek re-election has complicated the math for a Democrat-controlled Iowa House, moving the chamber from Toss-Up to Tilt R in our ratings. The second is KS SD-08, where Republicans are fighting for their supermajority in the KS State Senate. Incumbent State Senator Jim Denning (R) represents the only district in the chamber that Hillary Clinton won, and it’s now moderately favored to flip to Democrats this fall. Denning fits in the trend of vulnerable Republican State Senators who haven’t had an election since 2016 not seeking re-election, which is part of the reason why Democrats have a projected net gain in State Senates nationwide.

  1. WA SD-25 | Safe R → Lean R
  2. WA HD-10 Seat 1 | Tilt R → Toss-Up
  3. IA HD-64 | Lean D → Toss-Up
  4. NY AD-12 | Safe R → Likely R
  5. KS SD-08 | Toss-Up → Lean D

Finally, we have three ratings changes in the Nebraska Unicameral, two in the leftward direction and one in the rightward direction. While the chamber is technically nonpartisan, there are de facto Democrats and Republicans running for the seats up this year. In the “nonpartisan” primaries, Democrats did well enough in two districts to move them leftward in our ratings while Republicans did well enough in one to move it rightward.

Oregon had their primaries yesterday as well, but we did not see any reason for a rating change in either state legislative chamber.

  1. NE SD-21 | Lean R → Likely R
  2. NE SD-49 | Safe R → Likely R
  3. NE SD-35 | Toss-Up → Tilt D

Finally, in Massachusetts, we have two changes in our State Senate ratings there because of two special elections that were held last night. Democrats flipped two Republican-held districts won by Hillary Clinton in 2016, and as a result are favored to hold them in the general election.

  1. MA SD-Plymouth & Barnstable | Toss-Up → Tilt D
  2. MA SD-2nd Hampden & Hampshire | Tilt D → Lean D