Four Weeks Out, It Looks Like a Republican Rout

Time is the enemy of us all. Right now, the GOP knows that better than nearly any other entity in American politics.

With only four weeks left until Election Day, a nearly impossible window of time in an even more impossible scenario, the new mission for the Republicans should be to stop the bleeding. It’s all but certain that there will not be a net gain for Republicans in any category — the Senate, the House, the State Legislatures (overall). However, Republicans can and should try to minimize the net gain Democrats are currently projected to have if they want to prevent an absolute blowout at the polls.

But right now, in this update, we don’t see Republicans minimizing the likely bruising they’re headed for. In the past few weeks, it only seems like things are getting worse for them on most fronts as more undecided voters make up their minds.

Electoral College

Wisconsin was the tipping point in the 2016 election — when the state was called for Donald Trump, that was when most people knew that he was going to be the next President. There was a massive polling error in the state that year, and that has been our main reason for our hesitancy to move it into Joe Biden’s column. However, one may remember that the most common error for state polling in 2016 was that the polls did not weigh whites by education. Most polls have now corrected this error and as a result, polling was fairly accurate in the 2018 Wisconsin Governor race, when incumbent Governor Scott Walker (R) lost re-election to State Superintendent Tony Evers (D).

Now, Joe Biden is leading in Wisconsin with a greater margin than he has in the polling average in Pennsylvania and sometimes Michigan (both of which we consider Lean D). There’s no denying it any longer — Joe Biden is at least a slight favorite to win Wisconsin, and thus the presidency. This rating change puts Joe Biden over 270 electoral votes in our ratings.

One of the most surprising statewide results in the 2016 election was the absolute domination for President Trump in the states of Ohio and Iowa, two states which voted for President Obama in 2012. However, despite prognosticators and polling showing Democrats leading the gubernatorial races there in 2018, Republicans won each race by close margins.

These have been our main reasons we’ve been hesitant on moving these states into a more competitive category, but with Joe Biden leading in polls in each of these states, we can’t quite say that President Trump is favored in both of them anymore. It seems the states are regressing back to their electoral means in this election.

Joe Biden expanded the map in the Electoral College in our ratings in July, when we moved states like Montana and Missouri into the Likely R column; states which elected at least one statewide Democrat each in 2018. We saw an argument for moving a state like South Carolina into the Likely R column as well, but we were skeptical due to the lack of elasticity in its elections. Since then, Joe Biden has seemed to have made the Presidential race in the state a single-digit one, so we can no longer keep it in the Safe R column.

Finally, we are moving the state of Georgia, one of the few states that swung leftward in 2016, into the Toss-Up column. Joe Biden has a slight lead in the polls there at the moment and we can no longer say that President Trump is favored to win the state given this fact.

We have expected Georgia to swing leftward this year, but given the gubernatorial election in Georgia in 2018, were unsure about the prospect of a Democrat winning statewide there. Polling is better for Joe Biden than it was for Stacey Abrams (D), the 2018 gubernatorial nominee, so we can confidently see the state as a pure Toss-Up right now.

  1. WI | Toss-Up → Tilt D
  2. OH | Tilt R → Toss-Up
  3. IA | Lean R → Toss-Up
  4. SC | Safe R → Likely R
  5. GA | Tilt R → Toss-Up

As a result of these changes, the odds of a Joe Biden presidency have increased to 75% (previously at 69.1%), the odds of a Donald Trump presidency have fallen to 24.5% (previously at 28.4%, and the odds of a tied electoral college have fallen to 0.6% (previously at 2.5%)

The Senate

What’s far more interesting in South Carolina than the Presidential race is the race for US Senate. Lindsey Graham seemed to have room to grow when polls showed him in a neck-and-neck race in the Summer, but he has failed to do so. More and more voters are making up their minds and yet the race has not moved an inch in the margin.

Polls in September showed a tied race in South Carolina, or at best for Graham, him leading by 1 point. Jaime Harrison’s campaign is richer than Croesus right now, spending $7 million dollars this week in advertising alone. Lindsey Graham is in serious trouble of losing re-election, but given that we’ve seen more polls in September showing him with a 1 point lead rather than him in a tie, we would say the race is Tilt R.

There’s plenty of room for a Jaime Harrison upset, and as more undecided voters make up their minds this month, we may need to put this race as a Toss-Up if polling continues in the direction it is headed.

Another good piece of news for Democrats in their race for control of the US Senate is in Maine, where Sara Gideon (D) has slightly expanded her polling lead in her bid to unseat incumbent Susan Collins (R) to about a 5 point lead. When we moved the race from Toss-Up to Tilt D in late August, Collins only found herself at a slight disadvantage, but Gideon’s lead has continued to grow since then. We’re moving the race from Tilt D to Lean D as a result.

What may be the only good piece of news for Republicans in this update is in the race for the US Senate in North Carolina, where incumbent Thom Thillis (R) has consistently lagged in polling behind Cal Cunningham (D). The race was moved from Toss-Up to Tilt D in our ratings in early August when Cunningham opened up a double digit lead in the polls, which has since narrowed.

Tightening, however, is not the reason we’re moving this race rightward. It was recently reported (and confirmed by Cunningham) that he sent explicit text messages to a consultant in California. Cunningham has about a 6 point lead in the polls right now, and we expect that to tighten throughout the month as Thillis’s campaign makes a Hail Mary with the Cunningham scandal by launching attack ads informing the public of it. It’s hard to say that Cunningham is a favorite at the moment, so we are putting the race back into the Toss-Up category.

  1. SC-SEN | Likely R → Tilt R
  2. ME-SEN | Tilt D → Lean D
  3. NC-SEN | Tilt D → Toss-Up

As of now, we are combining our Senate odds with the Presidential odds, given that the VP will break a tie when necessary in a split chamber. As of now, the odds of a Democratic majority are at 63.9% and the odds of a Republican majority are at 36.0%.

The House

In every update we have made, Democrats in the House have increased their chances of keeping their majority, and this one is no different. A string of polls have shown Democrats in strong positions in several key competitive seats, and we are making rating changes accordingly.

We have also seen polls that show highly competitive races in Virginia’s 5th and Colorado’s 3rd. These are two Republican-leaning districts where Republican incumbents lost their nomination contests earlier this year, nominating candidates far more rightward.

Both of these candidates, Bob Good and Laura Boebert, had very weak campaigns for the general election when they won their nomination contests. We expected the NRCC to do their job, swoop in and save the day for them to prevent themselves from getting further into the minority, but that doesn’t seem to be happening; the seats seem to be falling into the laps of the Democrats.

  1. ME-02 | Lean D → Likely D
  2. NJ-02 | Toss-Up → Tilt D
  3. MT-AL | Lean R → Tilt R
  4. PA-07 | Likely D → Safe D
  5. AZ-06 | Lean R → Tilt R
  6. NY-24 | Lean R → Toss-Up
  7. CO-03 | Lean R → Toss-Up
  8. VA-05 | Lean R → Toss-Up

As a result of these rating changes, the odds of a Democratic majority have gone up to 95.5% (previously at 93.9%), and the odds of a Republican majority have fallen to 4.5% (previously at 6.1%).

The Legislatures

Recently, we reanalyzed some highly competitive districts thanks to new data provided by Drew Savicki for statewide election results in some competitive districts, and as a result have narrowed the definition of “Toss-Up” in our forecast. We have also begun the process of eliminating the Toss-Up category altogether in states where there are no remaining campaign finance reports for us to examine; North Dakota was the first.

As we attempt to eliminate Toss-Ups and continue to make appropriate rating changes when examining the many campaign finance report filings this month, we will continue to post them on our Twitter account, @CNalysis.

Three chambers have moved in favor of the Democrats since our last update: the AZ House, the AZ Senate and the PA Senate. The latter two were a direct result of individual district ratings being moved toward them. The AZ House on the other hand is a multi-member district chamber.

We moved the AZ House to the Tilt D column because of the Democrats’ candidacy filing strategy of only putting one Democrat on the ballot in the key multi-member districts that will decide control of the chamber. These are LD’s 20, 21, and 6 (though there is an Independent who promises to caucus with the Democrats in LD-6).

In 2018, Democrats put up 2 candidates in each of these districts, and as a result any ticket-splitting voters who may have chosen a Democrat and a Republican had the opportunity to choose between four candidates, and can vote for two. A voter can choose to vote for only one candidate if they’d like, which is what almost all Democrats in these districts will certainly do. Meanwhile, the voters who will split their ticket and vote for one Republican and one Democrat will choose between two Republicans and a lone Democrat. The vote for the Democrats will no longer be split between two candidates in these districts, which have very close margins.

Democrats need to net two seats in the AZ House to have an outright majority in the chamber and only need to net one seat for a tie, which would result in a power-sharing agreement. If a tie does happen, we could consider it a flip for Democrats as there is change in the balance of power.

In 2018, the Democrats were able to net 4 seats in the chamber, and that was while Republicans won the gubernatorial election by double digits and Kyrsten Sinema only won by 2 points. This year, Joe Biden has a consistent (though small) lead in the state, and Mark Kelly (D), who is running for US Senate, is leading by upper single digits to double digits over Martha McSally (R). We think it’s likely that Democrats, in this environment, will pick up two seats, but if they net one it’s still a win in our book.

That concludes our analysis for the AZ House. As always, here are the totals for where things stand in our state legislative ratings nationwide:

Of the 5,239 single-member state legislative districts up this year we are casting a prediction for, 1,027 are competitive (313 Likely, 324 Lean, 263 Tilt, 121 Toss-Up), or 19.60%. 1,691 are uncontested (882 Uncontested D, 805 Uncontested R, 4 Uncontested I), or 32.28%. 2,521 are safe (1,157 Safe D, 1,362 Safe R, 2 Safe I), or 48.12%.

111 districts are currently projected to flip party control (39 D to R, 2 I to D, 1 I to R, 69 R to D). In the State House/Assemblies, it’s 36 R to D, 24 D to R, 1 I to D, and 1 I to R. In the State Senates, it’s 33 R to D, 15 D to R, and 1 I to D.