Three is a Magic Number, But Not for Republicans

With three weeks remaining, it doesn’t look like the environment has improved for Republicans, mostly thanks to the extremely poor reception of President Trump’s debate performance and a lack of sympathy votes for his COVID-19 diagnosis, which has resulted in the President being down by double digits in the polling average.

A Captain, of course, goes down with his ship; but very few Republicans are distancing themselves from the President and are adamant that he can turn things around by Election Day, just as he did in 2016 when the Hollywood Access tape was released and he saw a sharp loss in support in October.

Additionally, financial totals released by campaigns and finance reports are a sign of concern for Republicans in most competitive races, from federal to state legislative races.

Electoral College

As mentioned above, national polling for President Trump has continued to worsen for his chances of re-election. No incumbent President has been down double-digits in his re-election bid in decades. The amount of undecided voters continues to decrease the closer we get to the election; it will take a miracle for him to turn things around.

As a result of the worsening environment for the President, we are moving Indiana from Safe R to Likely R. Indiana is a tough state for Democrats to win nowadays — they lost their only statewide Democrat in 2018 when incumbent Senator Joe Donnelly (D) lost to businessman Mike Braun (R) by 6 points. This state very narrowly voted for Barack Obama in 2008, a year that was very good to Democrats.

However, Obama hailed from neighboring Illinois, a factor that helped him carry the state. But given that Biden is leading by double digits in the average right now, we can’t rule out the possibility of him winning Indiana.

Arizona polling has consistently shown Joe Biden with a slight lead (about 4 points) throughout the latter half of this year so far. Given this, the national polling, Trump’s decline with senior voters and Mark Kelly’s wide lead in the race for the US Senate race, we can’t see how one can call Arizona a Toss-Up anymore. It is at least a Tilt D state in the Electoral College given everything we’ve seen in the polling data in the last few months, but especially now with Trump’s declining poll numbers.

  1. IN | Safe R → Likely R
  2. AZ | Toss-Up → Tilt D

The Senate

In Texas, polling for the US Senate race has been tightening as the vote shares for both MJ Hegar (D) and incumbent Senator John Cornyn (R) have risen, but more so for Hegar. It looks like it will now definitely be a single-digit race, though it’s unlikely that she will be able to pull the race into Beto O’Rourke’s 2018 3 point loss, given that Cornyn is a more popular incumbent and O’Rourke was a better challenger. We’re moving the race from Likely R to Lean R given the tightening here.

When the Kansas primaries ended, we moved the KS Senate race from Lean R to Likely R with the expectation that nominee Roger Marshall (R), the standard-bearer conservative candidate who beat deeply unpopular Kris Kobach (R) in the primary, would be shown with a firm lead in the polls. But since the primary ended, we have consistently seen tight polls, with some showing Marshall losing to State Senator Barbara Bollier (D). With the few polls we’ve seen, it looks like it will be a much tighter race than we expected. As a result, we’re moving the race from Likely R to Tilt R.

Things have improved for Democrats in both of the US Senate races in Georgia. In the regular election where Jon Ossoff (D) is facing off against incumbent Senator David Perdue (R), the race has tightened, with a fair amount of polls showing Ossoff leading. The special election with incumbent (appointed) Senator Kelly Loeffler (R), Congressman Doug Collins (R), Raphael Warnock (D), Matt Lieberman (D) and Ed Tarver (D) seemed pretty hopeless for Democrats not too long ago.

This was because in Georgia, if no candidate gets a majority of the vote, a runoff election will be called for, and both Republican candidates consistently were in the top two. However, under immense pressure from Democratic grassroots for him to drop out to avoid a Collins v. Loeffler runoff, his campaign has imploded, with tweets from his campaign account attacking former President Barack Obama for endorsing Warnock. Lieberman is now in the low single digits in the polls and as a result, Warnock’s vote share has skyrocketed. Now it’s the Republicans who are jockeying for second place for the runoff.

One good piece of news for Republicans in their fight to hold their majority in the Senate is in Michigan, where polls have drastically tightened in recent weeks; just yesterday, a New York Times/Siena poll had incumbent Democrat Gary Peters leading Republican John James by just a single point. The race is too close for comfort for Democrats, and given James’ 2018 overperformance versus what polls in the Senate race then showed, he’s got a good shot at an upset despite President Trump’s poor numbers in the state.

  1. TX | Likely R → Lean R
  2. KS | Likely R → Tilt R
  3. GA (Regular) | Lean R → Tilt R
  4. GA (Special) | Likely R → Lean R
  5. MI | Likely D → Tilt D

The Governors

There aren’t many competitive gubernatorial races this year, and there are even fewer races where Democrats have an opportunity to flip a Governorship. One such race where this opportunity is present is in Missouri. State Auditor Nicole Galloway (D), the last remaining statewide Democrat in Missouri, is running against incumbent Governor Mike Parson (R), who became Governor in 2018 when Governor Eric Greitens (R) faced excruciatingly-detailed sexual misconduct allegations. Polls have recently shown a single-digit race, and we expect that to hold, though we’d be surprised if Galloway started to open up a lead in any polls. We’re moving the race from Likely R to Lean R.

  1. MO | Likely R → Lean R

The House

We will have a large batch of rating changes in the House as we go through FEC filings, but one race we have seen evidence of Republican investment and Democratic abandonment is in Minnesota’s 7th, where incumbent Colin Peterson (D) is fending off a strong challenge from former Lieutenant Governor Michelle Fischbach (R). Peterson hasn’t received such a strong challenge in a number of years, even though his re-election margins have shrunk every cycle, due to his very rural district trending to the right.

Now the NRCC is spending to oust Peterson, as this is their best opportunity in the House to flip a Democratic-held district, and the DCCC isn’t doing much to save Peterson. We’re moving the race from Tilt R to Lean R.

We haven’t seen many polls that warrant rating changes in the US House, but we can say with certainty that there is one: a Siena poll of New York’s 22nd, where incumbent Democrat Anthony Brindisi leads former Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (R) by 8 points. Brindisi ousted Tenney by 2 points in 2018, despite the district’s tendency to vote for Republicans. Tenney is likely the only Republican who can lose a seat like this, and it looks like she will lose it again. We’re moving the race from Tilt D to Lean D.

  1. MN-07 | Tilt R → Lean R
  2. NY-22 | Tilt D → Lean D

The Legislatures

The biggest development for state legislative races since our last forecast update is that the majority coalition in the Alaska House of Representatives has fallen apart. The coalition, which consists of Democrats, Independents and a few Republicans, is in shambles as the remaining Coalition Republicans are promising to help form a regular Republican majority. One Coalition Republican who may be on the fence is State Rep. Louise Stutes, who says she will do what is best for her district. However, Republicans may not need Stutes for an outright majority, and no one likes to be in the minority. As a result of the collapse of the coalition, we moved the AK House from Lean D to Tilt R.

We’ve also made changes in several states as we’ve aimed to narrow our Toss-Up definition and reevaluate some districts’ ratings in accordance with the environment. Listed changes are on the CNalysis Twitter, most of them being due to campaign finance reports we’ve looked at. Overall, the changes are mostly in favor of Democrats.

Additionally, you may notice that there is a black bar at the bottom of each forecast now, including in state legislatures. This is a counter of the projected net gain in each type of office nationwide. As always, here are our rating totals for state legislatures nationwide.

Of the 5,240 single-member state legislative districts up this year we are casting a prediction for, 1,032 are competitive (310 Likely, 330 Lean, 288 Tilt, 104 Toss-Up), or 19.69%. 1,690 are uncontested (880 Uncontested D, 806 Uncontested R, 4 Uncontested I), or 32.25%. 2,518 are safe (1,168 Safe D, 1,349 Safe R, 1 Safe I), or 48.05%.

132 districts are currently projected to flip party control (39 D to R, 2 I to D, 1 I to R, 1 R to I, 89 R to D). In the State House/Assemblies, it’s 52 R to D, 24 D to R, 1 I to D, 1 I to R, and one R to I. In the State Senates, it’s 37 R to D, 15 D to R, and 1 I to D.