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Period Ending October 24, 2014

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This weekly roundup of election news and notes is compiled for Thompson Coburn by the The Ellis Insight.

Senate

Senate Overview: Republicans appear to be maintaining the momentum established last week, and may have even added further wind at their backs. Only in Georgia and possibly South Dakota are the late trends favoring Democrats, but outcomes are still far from decided. Everywhere else, including Kansas, is heading in the GOP’s direction. It appears control of the Senate is now coming down to 13 states counting two states, Montana and West Virginia, which seem to be sure GOP conversions.

Alaska: Both sides continue to pound away at each other on the airwaves. No new data was brought forth this week, but the last eight publicly released surveys all show challenger Dan Sullivan (R) leading Sen. Mark Begich (D) in margins between two and six points.

Arkansas: The latest Hendrix College/Talk Business poll, a regular feature in Arkansas politics, posted Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR-4) to his largest lead of the campaign, 49-41%. Sen. Mark Pryor (D) is now is serious danger of losing his re-election, and the odds appear to favor a Republican conversion as we enter the final week of the campaign.

Colorado: Two public polls give Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO-4) a small lead over Sen. Mark Udall (D) but Democrats claim their unreleased internal numbers give the Senator a similarly small advantage. The new mail voting procedure could change the outcome here if the margin is razor thin, and it may be. Democrats also point to the fact that their candidates have under-polled in the last two elections. The Colorado Senate race may prove to be the ultimate bellwether. Expect this one to go down to the wire, but the available data does seem to favor a very close Gardner upset victory.

Georgia: The trends here are reversed of what we are seeing from most places. Here, it is apparent that Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn has the momentum, but can she sustain it to claiming 50% on November 4th? Under Georgia election law, if no candidate receives a majority of the vote, the top two will run off on January 6th. The latest poll, from Survey USA (10/17-20; 606 GA likely voters) gives Nunn a 46-44% edge.

Iowa: Here, Democrats claim that Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA-1) has regained some lost momentum, but outside conservative organizations have opened up on him with major force. Three different organizations in addition to the National Republican Senatorial Committee: the NRA, Cooperative of American Physicians, and the American Heartland PAC, have each launched negative ads targeting Braley this week, obviously trying to ensure that a knockout blow is delivered against him. Only VoteVets is a new entry for Braley. It appears that state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) still has the slight upper hand. Braley is attacking her in return fire, largely centered on her conservative social issues positions and past votes cast as a state legislator. Braley’s goal is to label Ernst as “the Sarah Palin of the Prairie” in hopes that will peg her as being outside of the Iowa political mainstream.

Kansas: One new poll was released in Kansas this past week, and Democrats are attacking Gov. Sam Brownback (R) for the latest state economic report. The latter could have a tangential affect on Sen. Pat Roberts’ (R) campaign, as it relates to further poisoning the political climate. Rasmussen Reports (10/20-21; 960 KS likely voters) gives Independent Greg Orman a 49-44% advantage in the one new poll pushed into the public domain during the week. We should see new published data early next week.

Kentucky: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was showing signs of beginning to pull away from Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, and a new internal poll (Voter/Consumer Research; 10/16&19-21; 815 KY likely voter tracking interviews) posts the Senator to a 49-41% advantage. But other data suggests a tightening of the race to the point that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, after cancelling advertising in Kentucky is coming back into the state with a new and more expensive buy. The liberal Senate Majority PAC is also doing the same. Republicans still have concern here.

Louisiana: All indications continue to point to none of the eight candidates on the Senate ballot receiving a majority of the vote. This means that Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) and Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA-6) will likely head to a December 6th run-off. When polls include the other candidates, and specifically retired Air Force officer Rob Maness (R), neither of the major party candidates comes close to the majority mark.

New Hampshire: Three new polls are out, all showing a tightening of the Senate race and closing in favor of Republican challenger Scott Brown, the former Massachusetts Senator. The latest three polls show a margin of no more than two points. American Research Group (10/19-22; 600 NH likely voters) gives Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) a 49-48% margin. Opinion Research Group for CNN (10/18-21; 645 NH likely voters) finds Shaheen with a similar 49-47% edge. But, New England College (10/16; 921 NH likely voters) gives Brown the 48-47% tilt.

North Carolina: All polling is tightening here, and in favor of Republican challenger Thom Tillis, the NC Speaker of the House. Hitting Sen. Kay Hagan (D) over her husband’s business receiving $390,000 in Obama stimulus money after the Senator voted for the legislation has brought Tillis back into upset range. Most polling still gives Hagan the lead, but the margin averages two points and the momentum appears back with Tillis.

South Dakota: More negatives are flying over former Gov. Mike Rounds (R), and what should have been an easy romp into the Senate isn’t turning out that way. Though polling is showing the race getting closer, his internal Public Opinion Strategies survey (10/18-20; 500 SD likely voters) restores Rounds to the type of lead we have seen in the past. These numbers give the former Governor a 48-24-16% lead over former congressional aide Rick Weiland (D) and ex-US Sen. Larry Pressler, now running as an Independent.

House

House Overview: The House races appear stable, and now it is a question of how many seats the Republicans will gain, thus expanding their aggregate margin possibly beyond 240 seats. Defeating Reps. Lee Terry (NE-2), Michael Grimm (NY-11), and Steve Southerland (FL-2) seem to be the Democrats’ best chances of unseating Republican incumbents. The GOP looks strong in southeast Arizona where they could score two incumbent knockouts, and northern California where former Rep. Doug Ose (R) has a strong chance of upending freshman Rep. Ami Bera (D).

CA-31: In a race not getting a great deal of attention and seemingly being conceded to the Democrats despite retiring Rep. Gary Miller (R) winning here in 2012, a new American Viewpoint poll conducted for America’s Future Fund (10/19-21; 400 CA-31 likely voters) still shows Republican Paul Chabot within range of Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar. The ballot test gives the Democrat a 42-38% lead. Chabot’s effort has been stunted because of the lack of campaign resources, though he does have a strong grassroots organization.

CA-52: Despite a sexual harassment flap surrounding Republican candidate Carl DeMaio, a new Survey USA poll (10/17-20; 608 CA-52 likely voters) still finds him clinging to a small 46-45% edge over freshman Rep. Scott Peters (D). This one will likely go down to the wire and the results probably won’t be final for several weeks after the election. More than half the votes will be recorded by mail so expect a close finish and a long political overtime to determine the winner. California officials begin counting mail ballots after the polling places close, and they verify every ballot.

Illinois: We Ask America polled the Illinois congressional races, and found incumbents pulling away in all races but two. In the 10th District, the WAA data shows former Rep. Bob Dold (R), reversing the late trends, and pulling into a 47-45% lead over freshman Rep. Brad Schneider (D), the man who defeated him in 2012. Downstate, in a race Republicans are optimistic about, state Rep. Mike Bost (R) leads freshman Rep. Bill Enyart (D-IL-12) 44-42% in the southwestern IL congressional district.

KS-2: After seeing some polling showing the race between Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R) and Douglas County Democratic Party chair Maggie Wakefield getting closer, a new Tarrance Group survey for the Jenkins campaign (10/18-20; 400 KS-2 likely voters) finds the Congresswoman now leading 49-37%.

ME-2: Though heavily touted as a potential sleeper race for Republicans, a new Normington Petts poll conducted for Democrat Emily Cain’s campaign (10/15-16; 400 ME-2 likely voters), shows the liberal state Senator posting a much healthier lead over conservative former state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin (R). The numbers portend a 42-34% Cain margin in a race that has been bouncing around.

Governor

Governor Overview: Overall, the Governor’s races continue to poll close, while several other candidates are beginning to pull away. Republicans are likely to maintain their advantage in the Governors’ mansions, but their margin may dwindle by a state or two.

Virtual Ties: Polling is consistently showing several gubernatorial campaigns as flat ties, including the Florida contest between Gov. Rick Scott (R) and ex-Gov. Charlie Crist (D). Every poll shows the two candidates within a point or two of each other, or simply tied. Democrats are heavily emphasizing their Get-Out-The-Vote operation, which may be better than the Republicans’ operation.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) and ex-Rep. Bob Beauprez (R) continue to poll in a dead heat contest. Usually, the leading candidate is ahead by no more than two points, and many of the latest surveys are showing a flat tie. The last week here could be determinative, though with Colorado’s new vote-by-mail system, a large percentage of the ballots have already been cast.

Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy (D) still cannot pull away from former US Ambassador Tom Foley (R). This was the closest gubernatorial campaign in the nation four years ago, and there is a chance it could be so again in 2014.

In Georgia, the US Senate race is not the only tight campaign. Gov. Nathan Deal (R), as he has for months, continues to cling to the smallest of leads against state Sen. Jason Carter (D). The latest data is unchanged. Normally, Deal has a two point advantage. Republicans tend to under-poll in Georgia, meaning that Deal could acutally be in a bit better position that the data suggests.

In no surprise, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) continues to attempt to fend off Madison businesswoman Mary Burke (D) in a race that never varies by more than a point or two. The final votes will decide this one, as the polling is suggesting a deadlock.

Momentum: An upset is on the horizon in Alaska for the Independent/Democratic ticket, as Gov. Sean Parnell (R) continues to struggle. Former Gov. Sarah Palin (R), who appointed Parnell as her Lt. Governor and supported his career, has now endorsed Independent Bill Walker to replace him. Parnell changing many the energy tax structure she created has sent her to the other side. His perceived closeness to Big Oil is causing him major trouble in this race.

The Arkansas open seat is trending toward Republican Asa Hutchinson. Poll after poll now shows the former Congressman leading ex-Rep. Mike Ross (D) by margins beyond the margin of polling error.

Massachusetts businessman Charlie Baker (R) continues to score small leads against Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) in their race for Governor. Though the polling is very tight, the trends suggest Baker may pull the upset.

The latest EPIC-MRA poll (10/17-19; 600 MI likely voters) gives Gov. Rick Snyder (R) a 47-39% lead over ex-Rep. Mark Schauer (D-MI-7). The two had been running neck and neck until this poll showed some breakage toward the Governor. An upset here is still possible, however.

Finally, both Govs. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), in a race that had been tightening, and John Kitzhaber (D-OR) seem to be putting their opponents away. Both incumbents are expected to win re-election.