Just a little over a week before the midterms, here's an overview of where each of this year's 35 Senate elections stands. For each race, we display the polling average (choose a state), a consensus forecaster rating and the FiveThirtyEight probability from their Classic model. All information is as of late morning on Sunday, October 28th.
A few notes:
A new poll conducted by Strategic Research Associates gives Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer a 16 point lead over incumbent Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp. The same firm's prior poll, just three weeks ago, had the margin at 10 points.
52% of those polled had an unfavorable view of Heitkamp, a large increase from 41% who felt that way three weeks ago. According to the pollster: "“Senator Heitkamp appears to have been hurt by her vote against Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court as well as by subsequent campaign missteps widely covered in the media.”
Impact on Senate Control
Heitkamp's fading prospects for a 2nd term will make it that much more difficult for Democrats to retake control of the Senate. If she loses, her party must win 3 GOP-held seats from a list that includes Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Tennessee and Mississippi (special election). That's assuming they win their other 25 seats up this year - which will be no easy task.
FiveThirtyEight is out with a model forecasting this year's 36 gubernatorial elections. We've created an interactive map of their projections, which we'll be updating periodically until the November 6th elections.
Click or tap the map below to create your own projection.
Heading into the elections, Republicans hold 33 of the 50 governorships, near an all-time high. 16 are held by Democrats, with an independent in Alaska. As with other forecasters, the FiveThirtyEight model sees a drop in seats held by the GOP. Their model stands out a bit in the small number of toss-up races - three as of this writing vs. eight on the consensus map.
While there's no overall "battle for control" with gubernatorial races, many of the governors elected this year will have an important role in determining the composition of the U.S. House in the next decade. These governors will still be in office when redistricting comes around after the 2020 Census.
Defending 26 of 35 seats up for election this year, Democratic prospects for gaining control of the Senate in the 2018 midterms were never all that good. However, an unexpected win in an Alabama special election late last year coupled with more competitive than expected races in Texas and Tennessee gave the party a few narrow but plausible paths to gain the two seats needed. However, recent polling has been less promising. It remains to be seen whether the GOP Senate bump is temporary - a short-term reflection of the Kavanaugh confirmation fight - or one that will carry through to Election Day.
To gain control, Democrats must win 28 of the 35 elections, including a minimum of two Republican seats. The most likely path to that would be holding all of their 26 seats while winning the toss-up races in GOP-held Arizona and Nevada. The problem is that this path isn't all that likely in today's polarized voting era. According to Pew Research, since 2013, 69 of 73 Senate elections have been won by candidates belonging to the party that won the state's most recent presidential race. This year, ten of the seats Democrats are defending were won by Donald Trump in 2016, including five by 18% or more (Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia).
A loss in any of the 28 seats above obviously means Democrats need to pick one up elsewhere. The only three realistic options are Tennessee, Texas and the Mississippi special election. The other four Republican-held seats are not competitive.
At this point, North Dakota looks to be the most at-risk seat for Democrats. Recent polling there has turned in favor of Republican Kevin Cramer. Polling has also looked better for the GOP in Texas and Tennessee; these are both now rated Likely Republican in the FiveThirtyEight Senate forecast.
While over 300 of the 435 House seats are generally considered 'safe' for the incumbent party, there is a subset that is especially solid -- those with no major party opposition. This year, 42 seats fall into that category. That's a much smaller total number than the past two cycles, with the vast majority of the difference coming on the Democratic side. Reflecting the current climate, there are only 3 seats where that party doesn't have a candidate on the November ballot.
We've divided these into a few different groups. However, it doesn't change the bottom line that these 42 seats are all but certain to remain with the current party.
Totally Unopposed: There are 16 incumbents that have the ballot all to themselves. One of them, Michael Doyle (PA-18) is running unopposed in a district partially modified in redistricting. A 17th seat on this list is currently held Michael Capuano (MA-7), who was defeated by Ayanna Pressley in his bid for renomination.
Same Party Opposition: California and Washington hold top-two primaries, where all candidates, regardless of party, appear on a single ballot. The two largest vote-getters advance to the general election. In five districts, the two moving on are both from the same party. In 2016, Nanette Barragan won her first term vs. a fellow Democrat; this explains the narrow margin of victory in a district Hillary Clinton won by nearly 71%.
3rd Party Opposition: These 20 incumbents have one or more opponents on the ballot - all are 3rd party or independent candidates. None are expected to pose a major challenge.
In the above tables, the 2016 margin of victory for both the House race and the presidential election (within that congressional district) is displayed. As you might expect, given the lack of competition, these districts lean heavily toward one party. An asterisk indicates the incumbent was unopposed.
We've added a new feature to the 2018 House Election Simulator. As each simulated election is run, a table will populate below the map showing the seats that flip to the other party. The table also includes the consensus rating for each district listed.
More than 130,000 simulations have been run since we launched this back on September 22nd. Below the map, you can view the results of the most recent 5,000. Currently, Democrats are winning just over 75% of the time. Individual simulation results will vary widely, as there remains a wide distribution of plausible outcomes.
We're into the last full month before the November 6th midterm elections. Early voting is already underway in some states. The maps below reflect the current consensus ratings of Sabato's Crystal Ball, The Cook Political Report, and Inside Elections. For purposes of these maps, only races rated safe by all three of these forecasters are shown in the darkest shade of red/blue. This gives us the broadest view of the competitive landscape. Note that the discussion below is as of October 1st. However, the map images themselves will update as the consensus evolves.
Democrats need to gain two seats for control. The party has a more plausible path to achieving that than earlier this year, as the GOP-held seats in Texas and Tennessee have become much more competitive than expected. However, it is still an uphill climb, with Democrats defending 26 of the 35 seats up this year. Five of those states (Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia) were won by Donald Trump by 18 points or more in 2016. Even if Democrats manage to hold all their seats, they still need to win two GOP seats, most likely some combination of Arizona, Nevada, Tennessee and/or Texas. The special election in Mississippi is a longer-shot Democratic opportunity. What's interesting about this race is that it will likely go to a November 27th runoff. Should Election Day end with Democrats holding a 50-49 lead in seats, we won't know who will control the Senate until this runoff is held.
We've introduced a 'table view' to the 2018 House Interactive Map. When available, you'll see the Table View button to the bottom right of the map.
Table view lets you look at your map as - well - a table. With 435 districts, some of them very small, it is a bit challenging to see how individual districts are categorized and to aggregate all the districts within a category. The alternative table view presentation should help with that.
Here's a partial Table View for the Consensus Battleground Map (as of the most recent update on Sept. 20):
Initially, table view is available for maps that have been saved. To see table view for an in-progress map you are creating, click 'Share Map'.
The 270toWin House Election Simulator is now live. Give it a try! You can have the map populate randomly or by congressional district poll closing times*.
The simulator is primarily derived from the data-driven 2018 U.S. House Midterms Election Forecast from The Crosstab by G. Elliott Morris. However, it also takes into consideration the consensus projection of a number of long-time expert forecasters. This has the effect of limiting extremely unlikely outcomes, as there is an extra hurdle districts considered 'safe' by all the experts must overcome before they will change parties in a given simulation. However, the net effect of this 'governor' across many thousands of simulations is relatively small.
We're hoping to add a feature in the days ahead that will list all the district flipped when a simulation is run.
* The simulation occurs before the map is populated, so this choice doesn't affect the outcome
Although still about 45 days away, early voting for the 2018 midterm elections began Friday in Minnesota and three other states. New Jersey follows tomorrow, with Illinois next Thursday. Several more states will follow in early October, with over 30 states offering some form of early voting by late in the month. Note that requirements vary by state; some require a valid excuse to avoid voting on Election Day. Also, in some states the early voting period varies by location.
Minnesota is notable due to the number of competitive races it has this year. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton is not seeking a 3rd term. While the races leans Democratic, it is no sure thing. Likewise, in Minnesota's special election for U.S. Senate, incumbent Democratic Sen. Tina Smith is favored, but polling for this race has been much closer than for the 'regular' Senate election held by fellow Democrat Amy Klobuchar.
The congressional races are particularly interesting. Three of the state's 8 districts (MN-1, MN-2 and MN-8) are currently considered toss-ups, with the GOP-held 3rd hovering between toss-up and leans Democratic. MN-7 is considered likely to vote with 14-term incumbent Democrat Collin Peterson, but Donald Trump won here by 31% in 2016, his largest margin of victory in any district that elected a Democrat to Congress.
Minnesota's early voting continues through the day before the midterms. We're a bit conflicted by this. Early voting is a great way to get a higher percentage of registered voters to cast a ballot. That said, people voting well in advance of Election Day do so without complete information. This shrinks the pool of voters left to be persuaded to consider another candidate and/or react to developments in the campaign.
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