Saturday, November 01, 2014

Senate Election Update

Is gap between GOP and Dems narrowing?

On October 22 I put up my Senate election prediction map. In it I predicted a minimum win for the GOP of six seats giving them 51-49 control of the Senate. Since then, several of the races have tightened but the overall prediction stands. But, out of caution I redrew the map thusly:

The four states shaded in gray (CO,KS,IA,NC) offer the best opportunity to pick off the one seat the GOP needs for control. As of now that state is CO where the Republican, Gardner, has maintained a slim lead. But, as I have said before in states with a large Democrat/progressive machine leads under 4% for GOP candidates only invite Democrats to do their best (and their worst with fraud) to upset the outcome. The good news from Colorado is that Republicans have a large lead in return of mail in ballots.

As for Kansas, support for incumbent Republican Pat Roberts has tapered off but so has support for the Democrat calling himself an Independent Greg Orman. There is a larger than usual number of undecideds in recent polls which suggest the race could go either way. My hope is that GOP voters will come home on election day but we don't count hope unless you are a Democrat!

In North Carolina the race has tightened with the GOP challenger Tom Tillis pulling up within a one to three point lead.  Again, following the rule that the GOP challenger must be safely ahead I'd say a GOP win here is doubtful. Especially considering the stories coming from NC about illegal votes by immigrants.

Joni Ernst in Iowa is running a strong campaign and has had a consistent lead but it remains in the low single digits. However, a report in Politico quotes Democrats who a concede that Ernst has momentum and likability on her side. One Democrat woman helping to campaign for her challenger admitted “I’d like to like her...She’s personable; farmer’s [daughter], in the National Guard. I think that carries a lot of weight. A lot of people admire the combination she’s got.”

The problem for Joni Ernst is the same problem for many of these other GOP candidates with a close lead. The Democrat machine has been "ballot chasing" as a report in National Journal describes it:
On a recent Wednesday, more than two dozen Democratic activists in Des Moines were dialing for Braley alongside Wadden. There weren't enough tables and chairs in the field office, so some of the younger volunteers sat cross-legged on the floor, phones pressed to their ears. In a quieter corner, two legally blind volunteers were making calls together; their service dog, Amber, milled about the office.
Democrats have 35 of these field offices across the state; Republicans have only 13 (not counting local organizations).
This Democrat tactic of placing multiple field offices in the state is one they have used to great effect in elections past as I have warned repeatedly. Will it be enough to sink the momentum for Ernst? I suggest it will.

However, the statisticians at the New York Times think differently. They have an exhaustive analysis of the campaign and come up with these predictions:

7 Most Competitive

StateDem. chanceRep. chance
New Hampshire
North Carolina
* Probabilities shown in Kansas are for the Republican, Pat Roberts, and the independent candidate, Greg Orman.

But, in another article in the NY Times Nate Cohn reports:
More than 20 percent of the nearly three million votes already tabulated in Georgia, North Carolina, Colorado and Iowa have come from people who did not vote in the last midterm election, according to an analysis of early-voting data by The Upshot.
The advantage from that early voting goes largely to Democrats thus reinforcing my earlier caution.

The bottom line is that it's likely the GOP will take control of the Senate. But Democrats may declare victory because their time tested get out the vote machine, benefiting from a superior advantage in local offices and paid staff will blunt what would otherwise be a larger win for the GOP. I don't know how long it will take before the GOP realizes this error and fixes it. Perhaps they need to hire campaign consultants who have actually worked in campaigns at the grass roots level and not simply thought up clever ads that get lost in the noise!

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