The death of Justice Scalia has highlighted the importance of this year's 34 Senate elections, where control of the body that ratifies presidential Court nominations is again hanging in the balance. We've summarized the current state of the race in the table below. Use our 2016 interactive Senate map to review the current Senate, make an election forecast, and then see the 2017 Senate based on your prediction.
The left part of the table shows the 16 potentially competitive races in 2016; these are the seats that will determine control of the Senate. For a race to be in this list, at least one of three 'pundits' needed to see the race as at least somewhat competitive. The other 18 seats were seen as safe for the incumbent party by all three; these are listed to the bottom right.
In the top right, we've summarized what it all means. The current Senate is controlled by Republicans, with 54 seats; Democrats have 46 (including Maine independent Angus King). More than 70% (24 of 34) of the seats to be contested this year are currently held by Republicans, with the composition of safe seats much closer to 50-50. This puts the Democratic floor at 43 seats, Republicans at 41 or, put another way, 3 Democratic seats are at risk, while 13 Republican ones are in play.
Several of the seats fall into the 'likely' category; those may or may not end up as competitive. If we adjust for that, we end up with a 'Likely' floor of 46 for Republicans, 44 for Democrats, with 10 seats seen as highly competitive.
Justice Antonin Scalia, who served nearly 30 years on the Supreme Court, was found dead today at a resort in Texas. He was 79. The vacancy has huge implications for the 2016 presidential and Senate elections.
According to a guest on MSNBC (no link available), Republican-appointed justices have been in the majority of the Court since 1972.
The president nominates Supreme Court justices, who must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
The Court is ideologically divided 4-4 with the vacancy created by Scalia's passing. We obviously have a presidential election this year, and 34 U.S. Senate seats are up for election. The presidential race is likely to be competitive, and it is also close to 50/50 as to who will control the Senate.
This creates an interesting 'game theory' situation. Does President Obama nominate someone now, knowing that if he name someone with his ideological view, that person would have a very difficult time getting confirmed in a Republican-controlled Senate? Or does he nominate a moderate, hoping that person can get approved? Both parties will be reading the tea leaves as the year goes on.
For example, Republicans are already saying (McConnell, Cruz) that the appointment should wait until a new president is in office. However, if it becomes obvious that Democrats will win the White House and take control of the Senate, they might become more accommodating to an Obama nominee as the year goes on.
Ironically, Senator Cruz's statement could work against him, to the benefit of establishment Republicans, if voters conclude that Cruz or other outsiders like Donald Trump can't win in 2016.
Nevadans may be 'Feeling the Bern' after the Vermont Senator's strong performance in New Hampshire earlier this week. In a new Nevada survey conducted by TargetPoint, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are tied at 45%. This is the first Nevada poll since late December, when Gravis Marketing found Clinton ahead by 23 points.
While we'd like to see more polls confirm this, long-time Nevada political expert Jon Ralston says the results look pretty reasonable.
The Nevada Democratic caucuses are on February 20.
The team at Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball has updated their 2016 House of Representatives outlook, making 17 ratings changes. Of these, ten are positive for Republicans, while seven move in favor of Democrats. Nine of the races have become less competitive. 379 out of 435 seats are seen as safe for one party or the other, meaning the battle control will be fought in just 56 seats.
Since Democrats need to gain 30 seats to take control, it is highly likely that Republicans will hold the House in the 115th Congress. The elephant (or donkey, if you prefer) in the room is the presidential election. The Crystal Ball rankings profile is based on a "close national election where neither presidential candidate exerts excessive influence on other races."
The ratings changes follow. Use our 2016 House Interactive Map for a visual view and to create your own forecast. Note that we have recently enlarged the map and are working on some other enhancements to make it more user-friendly.
Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina has ended her quest for the White House. She issued a statement on her Facebook account, the first paragraph of which follows:
"This campaign was always about citizenship—taking back our country from a political class that only serves the big, the powerful, the wealthy, and the well connected. Election after election, the same empty promises are made and the same poll-tested stump speeches are given, but nothing changes. I've said throughout this campaign that I will not sit down and be quiet. I'm not going to start now. While I suspend my candidacy today, I will continue to travel this country and fight for those Americans who refuse to settle for the way things are and a status quo that no longer works for them."
Fiorina's exit, along with the likely departure of New Jersey governor Chris Christie, would leave just 7 of the original 17 Republicans in the race. Follow the race on our Republican Nomination page, which includes delegate and poll information, as well as links to information about each state's contest.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is expected to suspend his 2016 presidential bid today; exiting the race one day after a 6th place finish in New Hampshire. Christie received no delegates through the first two events of the 2016 nominating race.
Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders cruised to easy wins in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary. Both outperformed the polling which, overall, was pretty accurate.
Both parties allocate delegates in a proportional manner. After two events, Donald Trump leads with 17 delegates; Ted Cruz has 10. 1,237 are needed to win the Republican nomination. Bernie Sanders earned 13 delegates to Hillary Clinton's 9 in New Hampshire. Clinton is well ahead in delegates, owing to her receiving the support of a large number of party superdelegates.
No suspense, at least for first place, in New Hampshire. NBC has called the race for Donald Trump on the Republican side and Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side.
A new batch of Republican New Hampshire polls out this Sunday morning show little change from recent days. Donald Trump remains well ahead of the field, averaging 32% overall. Marco Rubio is 2nd with 15%, followed by Cruz at 13%, Kasich 11% and Bush 9%.
All of today's surveys were conducted prior to last night's debate, where Rubio's effort was widely panned. Fox News analyst Brit Hume said that the Florida Senator's performance "reminded me of nothing so much as Dan Quayle in the 1988 (vice) presidential debate..."
On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders holds a 15 point lead, on average, over Hillary Clinton after today's new set of polls.
Despite some variability across individual polls, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders retain double-digit leads as we head into the final weekend before Tuesday's New Hampshire primary. The five polls being averaged below were all released today (one yesterday on the Democratic side).
Republican: Trump and Rubio were 1-2 in all five of today's releases, with Trump's lead ranging from 10 to 21 points. Ted Cruz and John Kasich are essentially tied for 3rd, on average, although the two were no closer than 3 points in any individual poll.
Correction: Rubio had 19.4% in the Suffolk poll, which rounds to 19%. The text "Trump's lead ranging from 9 to 21 points" in the above paragraph has been updated to reflect this change.
Democrat: Bernie Sanders leads in all five polls, with margins ranging from 9 to 20 points. Interestingly, the Suffolk survey showed the smallest spread in both parties.
American Research Group and UMass Lowell have been conducting daily tracking polls, so expect to see continued polling releases over the weekend.
The Tuesday snowstorm threat we discussed earlier seems to have waned with this afternoon's forecasts. The storm is still expected to form, but looks to track further offshore than earlier projections, limiting snow accumulations. Things could change again, of course.
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