A Month Until Midterms

Approval Ratings

Cillizza passes along the above chart from Republican lobbyist Bruce Mehlman:

Remember that to win the Senate majority in 32 days, Republicans need to net six seats – right where history suggests they’ll be if Obama’s approval stays close to where it is today. And also remember that there are seven Democratic-held Senate seats in states that Obama lost in 2012 – and where his numbers have only fallen since.

Silver analyzes a recent batch of Senate polls:

The least favorable results for Democrats were the YouGov numbers in Alaska, Arkansas and Louisiana, all of which had Republican challengers ahead of the Democratic incumbents by margins of about 5 percentage points. Democrats Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Begich of Alaska each saw their chances decline to about 25 percent from 30 percent with the new polls added.

It would be a mistake to dismiss the importance of these states. If Republicans become more certain to win them, they’ll have a clear path toward picking up six Democrat-held Senate seats, as the races in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia look like near-certain gains for the GOP. Republicans would then need to win just one of Iowa, Colorado or Kansas to take control of the Senate (or they’d need to convince Orman to caucus with them if Roberts loses). With only 30 days to go until the election, any polling confirming Republican leads in these states qualifies as bad news for Democrats.

Nate Cohn expects that “turnout will be pivotal in many contests”:

The Democrats have invested millions more than Republicans in building a strong turnout operation, and the effects of that effort are already evident in the YouGov data. More voters have been contacted by Democratic than Republican campaigns in every state but Kansas and Kentucky, where Republican senators fought competitive primaries. Whether the Democratic turnout machine can turn its advantage in voter contacts into additional votes on Election Day might well determine Senate control.

Cillizza also checks in on various election models:

The Washington Post’s Election Lab is the most bullish on Republicans’ chances, pegging it as a 78 percent probability they win control of the chamber. LEO, the New York Times’ Upshot model, has the chances at 60 percent — roughly the same as Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight at 59.4 percent.  The overall predictions of Election Lab and FiveThirtyEight are virtually unchanged from a week ago (click here to see how things looked then) while the LEO model is less optimistic about a Republican-controlled Senate this week than it was last week (67 percent probability on Sept. 29.)

Harry Enten employs a sports analogy:

The model on Friday gave the GOP about a 59 percent chance of winning a majority in November. That’s about the same chances the Baltimore Ravens, leading 16-15, had of beating the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1 with 6:01 left in the 4th quarter. The Ravens had just kicked off after scoring on an 80-yard touchdown catch by Baltimore receiver Steve Smith. But less than a minute later, Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton connected with A.J. Green on a 77-yard touchdown pass. That was followed by a successful two-point conversion. And that’s how the scoreboard would remain: 23-16, Bengals.

Roughly speaking, Republicans are ahead by a point, but they’re kicking off and there’s time left on the clock.

Jonathan Bernstein chips in two cents:

[I]t’s worth emphasizing how much uncertainty is involved. Polling remains spotty in many states. Many surveys aren’t as reliable as we’d like. And the polls are still close enough that late-breaking shifts, get-out-the-vote advantages or even minor miscalculations by polling firms (about the size and composition of the electorate, for example) could easily yield different results. Outcomes ranging from minimal Democratic losses to a Republican landslide remain plausible, which means it’s going to be a fun final month for election watchers.

Along those lines, most pollsters are predicting greater polling error this year:

the top reason cited was the difficulty of forecasting turnout in midterm elections, without a presidential race to bring voters to the polls. And the crucial midterms are in states that don’t usually have close races. “The key Senate battlegrounds this year are also places like Alaska, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, etc., where most of the public pollsters don’t have a ton of experience,” one pollster said. “It’s not the Ohios and Pennsylvanias and Floridas of the world that we’re all used to polling a lot.”