Sabato's Crystal Ball has updated rankings on eight of this year's 34 Senate elections. All toss-ups, except for Nevada, have been characterized as leaning for one party or the other. Florida and Ohio move toward the Republican incumbents, with Indiana, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania now leaning Democratic. Those last three seats are also currently held by Republicans. The Illinois and Wisconsin races, two of the most at-risk Republican-held seats this cycle, were moved to Likely Democratic.
With these changes, and a review of the overall race, the Sabato team now sees Democrats as "slight favorites to win a slim Senate majority" as we head into Labor Day.
An interactive version of the current Sabato Senate map after these updates is below. Use it to create and share your own 2016 Senate prediction.
You may have noticed that all the seats discussed above are currently held by Republicans. In fact 24 of the 34 seats up this year are held by the GOP, including 10 of the 11 races seen as at least somewhat competitive. The only Democratic seat that has a real shot at flipping this year is Nevada, where Harry Reid is retiring. This means the GOP is playing a lot of defense to hold control of the Senate. Democrats need to gain 4 or 5 seats* to take the majority.
It is worth noting that 2018 sees a reversal, where Democrats are forced to defend 25 of the 33 seats up that year. It is quite possible that we may be in a period where control of the Senate flips between the two parties much more frequently than in the past.
Visit our Senate Race Ratings & Polls page to see ratings and recent changes from several pundits and links to the Senate polls in each state.
* A gain of 4 seats would tie the Senate at 50-50. Since the president of the Senate (the Vice-President) breaks any ties, control of a 50-50 Senate would go to the party that controls the White House.
Two Wisconsin polls released Wednesday showed a tightening of the presidential race there. The surveys, from Marquette Law and Monmouth University showed Hillary Clinton with leads of three and five points, respectively, among likely voters. Marquette's last survey, three weeks ago, showed Clinton with a 15 point lead among likely voters.
These polls shrink Clinton's lead over Donald Trump to 4 points, and the state is reclassified as a toss-up on the interactive map based on polls. It is worth noting that Clinton has led Trump in all 20 Wisconsin polls conducted this cycle and the state hasn't voted Republican since the Reagan landslide of 1984.
Both pollsters also surveyed the Wisconsin Senate race. Monmouth gave former Senator Russ Feingold (D) a 13 point lead over incumbent Ron Johnson (R). Marquette only showed a three-point lead for Feingold. The average lead for Feingold is eight points.
Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by 7 points among likely voters, a new Monmouth University national poll finds. How you interpret this might depend on your perspective: The lead is down sharply from the 13 point advantage Clinton held in the last Monmouth poll, 3 weeks ago. However, a 7 point lead is slightly above the national average, which now shows Clinton ahead by 6 points (5.4% when 3rd parties are included).
A new series of 'rust belt' polls by Emerson College shows Hillary Clinton with a small lead over Donald Trump in Michigan and Pennsylvania, while Ohio was tied. All of these results showed a closer race than the averages for these individual states.
Ohio: The race is between Clinton and Trump is tied at 43%, with Gary Johnson at 10%, Jill Stein at 2%. Several polls in late July also found the race tied, although several subsequent polls had Clinton ahead by several points. With this poll, Clinton's head-head average lead is now 3.8%. No Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio.
In the Ohio Senate race, Rob Portman registered a 15 point lead over challenger Ted Strickland, 40-25%. That seems like a pretty large number of undecideds for two well-known nominees.
Pennsylvania: Emerson finds a three point Clinton lead here, 46% to 43%. Gary Johnson received 7% support, Jill Stein 2%. Clinton has led every poll here since mid July, several of them by double-digits. Her average lead remains wide at 9.4%. While Pennsylvania seems to be in play each election cycle, it last voted for a Republican in 1988.
In the Pennsylvania Senate race, Pat Toomey led by 9 points over challenger Katie McGinty. This result is also quite different than other recent polls, all of which had McGinty at least slightly ahead.
Finally, in Michigan, Clinton leads by five over Trump, 45% to 40%, with Johnson at 7%, Stein at 3%. This five point spread is more in line with other recent polls, although, as in the other two states, it shows a closer race than the average. With this result, Clinton now holds an average 7.6% lead over Trump. As in Pennsylvania, Michigan last went red in 1988. There is no Senate race in Michigan this year.
Emerson shows a closer presidential race in all three states than other recent polls. Whether that reflects a shift back toward a tighter race or is just an outlier based on pollster methodology remains to be seen. While it wouldn't surprise us to see some tightening of the race after several rough weeks for Trump, it is notable how much stronger the Republican incumbents also did in the two Senate races than in recent polls. This might hint that the reversal in the presidential race may not be quite as sharp as this set of polls indicates. It is why it is always best to look at an average of polls. This will become easier after Labor Day as the state-level polling becomes much more frequent.
Politico reports that Chris Suprun, one of Texas' 38 Republican electors, has indicated that if Donald Trump wins his state, as seems likely, he may cast his electoral college vote elsewhere. Earlier in August, Baoky Vu, then a Georgia elector, indicated the same, while going even further by saying he wouldn't vote for Trump in November. Shortly after those comments, Vu resigned.
About half the states bind electors legally, the remainder do not. Texas and Georgia are two of the states that do not require electors to vote in line with the popular vote results. Electors not voting as pledged are known as 'faithless electors'. These are rare, particularly in modern times, as the electoral slates are usually comprised of those very loyal to the party they represent. Wikipedia has a list of faithless electors.
When a voter goes to the polls on November 8th, his or her vote for a presidential candidate is actually a vote cast for a slate of electors selected to represent that candidate/party in the electoral college. There is a separate set of electors for each party on the ballot. Independent and write-in candidates may or may not have a slate, it seems to vary by state. The number of electors in each slate are equal to the state's electoral votes.
The electors associated with the winning candidate in each state will meet to vote on December 19th, where each will individually cast his or her electoral college vote. The votes are recorded on a Certificate of Vote, a copy of which is sent to the President of the Senate (VP Joe Biden) for the official count on January 6, 2017. Here's Texas' Certificate of Vote from 2012.
If Mr. Suprun, or another elector, were to cast their vote differently than as pledged, it would occur at this December 19th meeting.
For third party candidates, ballot access is crucial if polling support is to translate into votes on Election Day. As of now, Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson is on the ballot in 43 states + DC, with efforts underway to get access in the remaining seven states. Green Party nominee Jill Stein is on the ballot in 35 states + DC.
Johnson's ballot access represents 487 of 538 electoral votes, while Stein is at 425. Although clearly less desirable, it is worth noting that some states allow limited access via write-in for names not printed on the ballot.
Both Johnson and Stein are repeat nominees for their parties. In 2012, Johnson was on the ballot in all but Michigan and Oklahoma. Stein was on the ballot in 36 states + DC.
The Clinton campaign is opening a field office in Salt Lake City, the USA Today reports. Although no Democrat has won the state since 1964 and Mitt Romney won by almost 50 points in 2012, the campaign sees an opportunity in the high unfavorable ratings for Donald Trump.
A new poll out today, however, shows it will be a steep climb. Public Policy finds Trump ahead by 20 points in a head-head match-up vs. Clinton. When third parties are included, Trump's lead drops to 15 points, with Gary Johnson receiving 12%. Independent Evan McMullin, who entered the race on August 10th, is at 9%. (McMullin, a member of the Mormon church, would be expected to see his best numbers in the state, where he is already on the ballot.)
Hillary Clinton has opened up a 19 point lead over Donald Trump in Virginia, a new poll from Roanoke College finds. This is the fourth August poll finding the Democratic nominee with a double digit lead. When 3rd party nominees are included, the lead is 16 points. The last time Roanoke surveyed the Commonwealth, back in May, the race was tied.
Clinton's average lead over Trump is now well over 10%, placing the state into the 'Safe Clinton' category in the Electoral Map Based on Polls. It is worth noting that Virginia was one of only four states decided by 5 points or less in 2012. The last time Virginia was decided by 10 points or more was when George H.W. Bush defeated Michael Dukakis by about 20% in 1988. The last time a Democrat won by 10 points here was in 1944, when FDR won by 25% over Thomas E. Dewey.
The Associated Press is out with an analysis of the electoral map this weekend, reporting that "Hillary Clinton heads into the fall out front in enough states to give her at least a tie in the Electoral College, meaning a victory in any of the several states now a toss-up would be enough to push her over the top and into the White House.
Here's a look at the AP ratings on our electoral map. Click or tap the map to view an interactive version.
The August 15 update* to the Consensus Pundit Electoral Map gives Hillary Clinton 279 electoral votes to 191 for Donald Trump; 68 electoral votes in four states are seen as true toss-ups.
The main changes from the prior map were to move Virginia and New Hampshire from toss-up to leaning Clinton. This was enough to push Clinton across the 270 electoral vote threshold for the first time. Several red states also became more competitive, with Kansas and South Carolina moving from safe to likely Trump, Missouri from likely to leaning Trump.
Click the map above to use it as a starting point for your own 2016 forecast. You can also review the individual forecasts (links above the map) that make up the Consensus Map.
* This article was first published based on updates as of early Monday, August 15. Subsequent updates that morning led to additional modifications of the map. The article and image were updated to take these changes into account.
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