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  1. #1
    Senior Member AirborneSapper7's Avatar
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    May 2007
    South West Florida (Behind friendly lines but still in Occupied Territory)

    Sebato's Crystal Ball: Current outlook: Republicans net 5-8 Senate seats

    2014 Senate

    To read recent stories regarding 2014 Senate races, click here.
    Updated Oct. 23, 2014

    Current outlook: Republicans net 5-8 Senate seats

    To create your own Senate ratings map, check out the interactive map from our partner

    Note: Bolded candidate names indicate likely frontrunner for a nomination if there is one. *Indicates a special election.

    State Incumbent Possible Primary Challengers Major Party Opposition Third party Party Rating
    AK Mark Begich
    - Ex-State Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan - Veteran Mark Fish (Lib)
    - Ted Gianoutsos (Ind)
    Leans R
    AL Jeff Sessions
    Safe R
    AR Mark Pryor
    - Rep. Tom Cotton - Mark Swaney (Grn)
    - Nathan LaFrance (Lib)
    Likely R
    CO Mark Udall
    - Rep. Cory Gardner - Gaylon Kent (Lib)
    - Bill Hammons (Unity)
    - Neurosurgeon Steve Shogan (Ind)
    - Raúl Acosta (Ind)
    DE Chris Coons
    - Businessman Kevin Wade - Andrew Groff (Grn) Safe D
    GA Saxby Chambliss
    -Businessman David Perdue - Non-profit exec. Michelle Nunn - Ex-Flowery Branch council member Amanda Swafford (Lib) Toss-up/Leans Runoff
    HI* Brian Schatz
    - Ex-state Rep. Cam Cavasso - Michael Kokoski (Lib) Safe D
    IA Tom Harkin
    - Rep. Bruce Braley - State Sen. Joni Ernst - Douglas Butzier (Lib)
    - Bob Quast (Ind)
    - Rick Stewart (Ind)
    - Ruth Smith (Ind)
    Leans R
    ID Jim Risch
    - Atty Nels Mitchell Safe R
    IL Dick Durbin
    - State Sen. Jim Oberweis - Sharon Hansen (Lib) Safe D
    KS Pat Roberts
    - Shawnee County DA Chad Taylor (withdrew) - Businessman Greg Orman (Ind)
    - Quality assurance inspector Randall Batson (Lib)
    KY Mitch McConnell
    - Sec. of State Alison Lundergan Grimes - Police officer David Patterson (Lib) Likely R
    LA Mary Landrieu
    - Wayne Ables
    - Vallian Senegal
    - William Waymire
    - Rep. Bill Cassidy
    - Ret. Air Force Col. Rob Maness
    - Thomas Clements
    - Brannon McMorris (Lib) Toss-up/Leans Runoff
    MA Ed Markey (Running) - Hopkinton Selectman Brian Herr Safe D
    ME Susan Collins
    Ex-Exec. Director of Maine ACLU Shenna Bellows Safe R
    MI Carl Levin
    - Rep. Gary Peters - Ex-Sec. of State Terri Lynn Land - Jim Fulner (Lib)
    - Chris Wahmhoff (Grn)
    - Richard Matkin (UST)
    Likely D
    MN Al Franken
    - Businessman Mike McFadden - Steve Carlson (Ind)
    - Heather Johnson (Lib)
    Likely D
    MS Thad Cochran
    - Ex-Rep. Travis Childers - Shawn O’Hara (Ref) Safe R
    MT John Walsh
    State Rep. Amanda Curtis - Rep. Steve Daines - Former MT Secretary of State nominee Roger Roots (Lib) Safe R
    NC Kay Hagan
    - State House Speaker Thom Tillis - 2002 candidate Sean Haugh (Lib) Leans D
    NE Mike Johanns
    - Midland University President Ben Sasse - Atty. David Domina - Rancher Jim Jenkins (Ind)
    - Todd Watson (Ind)
    Safe R
    NH Jeanne Shaheen
    - Ex-MA Sen. Scott Brown Leans D
    NJ Cory Booker
    - 1978 nominee Jeff Bell - Joseph Baratelli (Lib)
    - Hank Schroeder (Ind)
    - Jeff Boss (Ind)
    - Antonio Sabas (Ind)
    - Eugen Lavergne
    Safe D
    NM Tom Udall
    - Former state party Chairman Allen Weh Safe D
    OK Jim Inhofe
    - Financial adviser Matt Silverstein - Aaron DeLozier (Ind)
    - Ray Woods (Ind)
    - Joan Farr (Ind)
    Safe R
    OK* Tom Coburn
    - Rep. James Lankford - State Sen. Connie Johnson - Mark Beard (Ind) Safe R
    OR Jeff Merkley
    - Physician Monica Wehby - Peace activist Christina Lugo (Grn)
    - Mike Montchalin (Lib)
    - James Leuenberger (Con)
    Likely D
    RI Jack Reed
    2008 & 2010 RI-2 nominee Mark Zaccari Safe D
    SC Lindsey Graham
    - State Sen. Brad Hutto - Ex-state Treasurer Thomas Ravenel (Ind)
    - SC Libertarian Party chair Victor Kocher (Lib)
    Safe R
    SC* Tim Scott
    - Richland County Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson - Ex-CPO of the American Red Cross Jill Bossi (American) Safe R
    SD Tim Johnson
    - 1996 House candidate Rick Weiland - Ex-Gov. Mike Rounds - Ex-Sen. Larry Pressler (Ind)
    - 2010 GOP Gov. candidate Gordon Howie (Ind)
    Leans R
    TN Lamar Alexander
    - Atty Gordon Ball - Joe Wilmoth (Const)
    - Martin Pleasant (Grn)
    - Tom Emerson (Ind)
    - Edmund Gauthier (Ind)
    - Joshua James (Ind)
    - Danny Page (Ind)
    - Bartholomew Phillips (Ind)
    - C. Salekin (Ind)
    - Eric Schechter (Ind)
    - Rick Tyler (Ind)
    Safe R
    TX John Cornyn
    - Physician David Alameel - Rebecca Paddock (Lib)
    - Emily Sanchez (Grn)
    Safe R
    VA Mark Warner
    - Ex-RNC chair Ed Gillespie - 2013 Gov. candidate Robert Sarvis (Lib) Likely D
    WV Jay Rockefeller
    - Sec. of State Natalie Tennant - Rep. Shelley Moore Capito - Ex-VA Del. John Buckley (Lib)
    - Bob Henry Baber (Mtn)
    - Phil Hudok (Const)
    Safe R
    WY Mike Enzi
    - Former Catholic priest Charlie Hardy - Joseph Porambo (Lib)
    - Curt Gottshall (Ind)
    Safe R

    Recent Senate Analysis

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  2. #2
    Senior Member AirborneSapper7's Avatar
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    May 2007
    South West Florida (Behind friendly lines but still in Occupied Territory)
    Senate Forecast: Cloudy With a Good Chance of a Republican Majority

    Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley, Sabato's Crystal Ball October 23rd, 2014

    With less than two weeks to go until Election Day, the picture in several key races remains hazy. But when the dust settles, the most likely result is a Republican majority, as the Crystal Ball’s outlook of Republicans adding five to eight seats has long indicated.
    The GOP needs at least a net gain of six seats to win back Congress’ upper chamber. But the math is complicated by Sen. Pat Roberts’ (R) struggles in Kansas against independent Greg Orman, and even if Roberts wins, the GOP may not get to 51 seats until after Dec. 6 (Louisiana’s runoff) or even Jan. 6, 2015 (Georgia’s runoff), making it difficult to actually call the Senate for Republicans even this close to Nov. 4.
    A rundown of the arithmetic at this point: The GOP looks certain to win Democratic-controlled seats in Montana and West Virginia, both of which we rate as Safe Republican. While ex-Gov. Mike Rounds (R) hasn’t had an easy go of it in South Dakota — thus our Leans Republican rating there — he is still in a decent position to beat Rick Weiland (D) and independent ex-Republican Sen. Larry Pressler in a three-way race. A win in the Mount Rushmore State would give the GOP three pickups.
    Down south in Arkansas, Sen. Mark Pryor’s (D) hopes seem to be fading to some degree: A new Talk Business/Hendrix College poll found Rep. Tom Cotton (R) leading the incumbent 49%-41%. While Pryor isn’t completely down and out, it’s increasingly hard to see him overcoming Arkansas’ hard shift to the right. We’re upgrading Cotton’s chances from Leans Republican to Likely Republican. Republicans are hopeful that they’ve put this one away, and the trend line for Democrats is not good.
    That would be a net gain of four for the GOP.
    In Iowa’s open seat race, state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) is ahead by about 2.5 points in the polling averages over Rep. Bruce Braley (D). While that helps make her a slight favorite at this point, that kind of slim lead in the averages hasn’t proven to be a sure thing in the past. Still, an Ernst win would be a fifth pickup for Republicans.
    It’s interesting: The two Democratic-held House districts in eastern Iowa, IA-1 and IA-2, are more Democratic than the state’s other two districts: President Obama won 56% in both of them in 2012. Yet both seem to be getting more competitive in part because of rumblings that Braley is not doing that well in either district. If that’s true, and Braley is doing poorly in the more Democratic part of the state, then perhaps Ernst is doing better than the statewide public polling indicates. Or maybe the House polling is just off: Those surveys often are.
    Up north in Alaska, the inconsistent polling history in the Last Frontier still gives us some pause despite the fact Dan Sullivan (R) has consistently led Sen. Mark Begich (D) in recent surveys, though we favor him to win in our ratings. If Sullivan wins, that would give the GOP a sixth seat, and a majority right?
    Not necessarily. The Kansas Senate race continues to vex prognosticators. Although Roberts’ fortunes seem to have improved after national Republicans and outside conservative groups entered the race to hammer Orman, the race remains a Toss-up. It appears that over the past several weeks, Roberts pulled himself out of a deficit, moving from down five or more to basically a tie. However, according to our sources, he has not really been able to move into the lead, and Republicans are now worried about outside spending on Orman’s behalf starting to take its toll on the already woefully unpopular Roberts (though it’s not as if Roberts is without air cover himself). One of the Super PACs backing Orman is Harvard Prof. Lawrence Lessig’s Mayday PAC, which raises big money to spend big money on candidates who oppose big money in elections. (Got it?)
    Presently, RealClearPolitics’ average actually has the two in an out-and-out tie, while HuffPost Pollster shows Roberts with a lead of under a point. So the Sunflower State’s uncertainty keeps the GOP from getting to a sixth net gain at this point.
    What of the other three Toss-ups in Colorado, Georgia, and Louisiana? In the Centennial State, Rep. Cory Gardner (R) continues to lead Sen. Mark Udall (D) in the polling averages. While our view of the race — it remains a Toss-up — is colored by previous problems with polling in Colorado and the state’s new all-mail balloting system, evidence favoring Gardner is mounting, seemingly with every new poll. In effect, Democrats’ retorts to Gardner’s lead in the public polls are beginning to sound somewhat like Republicans in 2012 “unskewing” polls to argue that Mitt Romney would win. We will make our call here — along with the other tough ones — in the days prior to the election.
    We currently expect both Toss-up contests in Georgia and Louisiana to head to runoffs. In the former, both sides are hoping to avoid that eventuality, although according to some of our sources, Michelle Nunn (D) might now have a better chance than David Perdue (R) to win outright on Election Day in Georgia, which would be a disaster for the Republicans. In the Pelican State, a runoff is essentially a foregone conclusion at this point. Although Republicans would probably be favored in each runoff, one month (Louisiana) or, particularly, two months (Georgia) is a lifetime in politics, and who knows what new revelations or outside developments may occur between Nov. 4 and the runoff dates? With that in mind, we are erring on the side of caution. Cassidy has a healthy lead on Landrieu in trial heats of the runoff, but the regular electorate might very well be different than the runoff electorate. Those writing Landrieu’s obituary — some of the election models give her less than a 10% chance to win based on polls of a hypothetical runoff — are discounting the inherent uncertainty of the overtime.
    Meanwhile in Kentucky, we’re holding at Likely Republican the race between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D), even though the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is getting back on the airwaves. McConnell has had a consistent though small lead in polling for months.
    Finally, in two states that currently Lean Democratic in our ratings — New Hampshire and North Carolina — we continue to believe that incumbent Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Kay Hagan (D-NC) are slightly better positioned than their Republican challengers. Hagan is the more vulnerable of the two, but rumors that her race has tightened significantly have not really been confirmed by public polling. One can imagine both seats being washed away in a GOP tide, but as of now the Democrats retain at least a small edge, and remain confident, in both.
    The blunt math: Our present ratings leave Republicans with 49 seats and Democrats with 47 seats, with four Toss-ups: Georgia and Louisiana, which both might be heading to overtime, and Colorado and Kansas, where incumbents Udall and Roberts are in deep trouble — especially Udall — but retain a path to victory. To claim a majority, Republicans need to win half of the Toss-up states. Democrats need to win three of them to achieve a Biden Majority (a 50-50 draw with Vice President Joe Biden’s tie-breaking vote giving Democrats the edge). Given the playing field, this arithmetic certainly advantages the GOP, but there is at least some chance that Democrats might pull off the unexpected.
    So the Senate remains too close to call, but it’s clear that Republicans are well positioned to win a majority and that Democrats’ backs are up against the wall as Election Day approaches.
    Table 1: Crystal Ball Senate ratings changes

    Map 1: Crystal Ball Senate ratings

    P.S. One overlooked factor in why Democrats find themselves in such a predicament in the Senate is because they were rocked by a lot of retirements at the start of the cycle, as we explain in this new piece for Politico Magazine.

    Sizing Up the Statehouses

    Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley, Sabato's Crystal Ball October 23rd, 2014
    Nov. 4 is rapidly approaching but a large number of gubernatorial contests remain up in the air. In fact, despite having some ratings changes this week, the Crystal Ball still has seven Toss-up races on the board, and most appear to be headed right down to the wire.
    The two new ratings this week are in Alaska and Georgia. In the Last Frontier, the unity ticket led by independent Bill Walker has led most polling against Gov. Sean Parnell (R). Alaska’s troubled economy is hurting the incumbent, with the struggles exacerbated by low oil prices in a state with a large dependency on petroleum revenues. Additionally, Parnell has suffered through a late-breaking scandal involving allegations of sexual assault and other misconduct in the state National Guard. Walker now leads the polling averages by three-to-four points, and in light of Parnell’s problems, we’re moving the Alaska gubernatorial race from Toss-up to Leans Independent. Another factor here: Because the state’s Senate race has dominated the airwaves, there’s effectively no television ad space left for the well-funded Republican Governors Association to buy to support Parnell.
    Last week, the Crystal Ball moved the Georgia Senate contest to Toss-up/Leans Runoff because of the increasing likelihood that no one will win a majority on Nov. 4. The race for governor in the Peach State appears to be on a similar trajectory — the Libertarian candidate in the contest, Dr. Andrew Hunt, may well win enough of the vote to prevent Gov. Nathan Deal (R) or his challenger, state Sen. Jason Carter (D), from getting above 50% on Election Day. As in the Senate race, it’s easier to see the Republican winning the runoff than the Democrat, but enough uncertainty exists to lead us to shift the Georgia gubernatorial contest from Leans Republican to Toss-up/Leans Runoff. While the Senate runoff will take place Jan. 6, 2015, if no one wins a majority, the gubernatorial runoff would happen Dec. 2. This bizarre scheduling is the result of a federal court ruling that compelled Georgia to delay its Senate runoff date to allow absentee ballots to be sent out at least 45 days ahead of the runoff election. But the ruling only affects the state’s federal election schedule.
    The final ratings change is in Arkansas, where former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R) is pulling away from former Rep. Mike Ross (D). The Democratic Governors Association is off the air here, and Republicans appear poised for a statewide sweep of both the gubernatorial and Senate races. We’re moving our rating from Leans Republican to Likely Republican.
    Table 1: Crystal Ball gubernatorial ratings changes

    Map 1: Crystal Ball gubernatorial ratings

    The big picture

    With seven Toss-ups remaining, and with a number of other close races (the aforementioned Alaska, not to mention Maine, Michigan, and Wisconsin), there’s still a great deal of uncertainty across the country in these gubernatorial battles. That said, here’s our best guess right now at the big picture:
    The Republicans go into this election holding 29 of 50 governorships. Despite this being a good Republican environment nationally, they are overextended thanks in part to their 2010 successes. Our range of net gains is a GOP gain of one seat to a Democratic gain of two. At this point, it would be a surprise if the Republicans ended Election Night with more governorships than when they started it, but that’s not out of the question.
    Based on our current ratings, Democrats are big favorites to flip Pennsylvania, and small favorites to defeat Gov. Paul LePage (R) in Maine. That would be a net gain of two for the Democrats. But because Republicans are now heavily favored to capture the open seat in Arkansas, that knocks the net Democratic gain down to one. As noted above, we now also favor independent Walker to defeat GOP incumbent Parnell in Alaska. That’s another net loss for the GOP, but not a net gain for the Democrats because Walker is not a Democrat (even though his running mate is, thanks to a fusion ticket). So that ends up being -2, net, for the Republicans, and +1, net, for the Democrats.
    That brings us to the seven Toss-ups. Because we now expect overtime in Georgia, we are calling that race a Toss-up, but at the end of the day it would be surprising if the Democrats ultimately won that seat. Also, and while we are keeping these races as Toss-ups in our ratings, it appears that Govs. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) and Pat Quinn (D-IL) have stabilized their positions, and they seem to have better than even odds to win second, full terms. So that’s three of the seven Toss-ups where we think the incumbent party is positioned to hold on, though we have not made picks yet and we reserve the right to change our minds before the end. Sen. Mark Udall’s (D-CO) seeming decline, in particular, could really hurt Hickenlooper.
    The remaining four Toss-ups, two currently held by Republicans and two currently held by Democrats, are harder to assess.
    In Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback (R) appears legitimately tied with state House Minority Leader Paul Davis (D). The same is true of Gov. Rick Scott (R) and former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) in Florida, although Crist’s position has slightly improved over the last month, and we think it’s easier to imagine the party-switcher pulling out the race now than it was for much of this campaign. (Scott’s much-derided delay in coming on stage to debate Crist because Crist was using a fan to keep himself cool during a recent debate was a boneheaded move, but there’s not much indication that it will in and of itself cost Scott the race.) We wouldn’t be shocked if Republicans won both — or lost both.
    Finally, two New England races where Democrats are trying to hold on — the open seat contest in Massachusetts between Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) and 2010 nominee Charlie Baker (R) and the rematch between Gov. Dan Malloy (D) and 2010 nominee Tom Foley (R) in Connecticut — appear to both be very close, with both sides arguing they have the upper hand. We think the Republicans will end up winning at least one of the two, with Connecticut the likelier opportunity, but we’re not ready to call either.
    Ultimately, there should be quite a lot of drama in many of these races, but at the end of the day, there probably won’t be a big swing either way in the number of governor’s mansions each side controls.

    Strange Cross-Currents in the Race for the House

    Kyle Kondik, Managing Editor, Sabato's Crystal Ball October 23rd, 2014
    There are two vastly different lead paragraphs I could have used to open this story about the state of the race for the U.S. House. Instead of picking one, I’ll just include them both, and then try to explain the odd cross-currents we’re seeing in House races across the country.
    Lead No. 1: With 12 days to go, House Republicans are beginning to expand their list of targets. They and their allies are plopping down money in Democratic-held blue districts in places like Hawaii, Iowa, and Nevada, all in an effort to push GOP gains into the double-digits. The Republican tide is so high that an indicted congressman in a swing district is in decent shape to win reelection.
    Lead No. 2: For a party in line to expand their House majority this November, Republicans are sure having to shore up some deep red territory: Outside conservative groups are now spending big to hold Republican districts won comfortably by Mitt Romney in states like Arkansas, Nebraska, and West Virginia, and the GOP has had a hard time clearly putting away seats they’ve been targeting all cycle.
    So what’s going on? Here’s where we see the House at this point:
    Republicans still appear positioned for a gain of about six to nine seats. That’s been our projected range for the past few weeks, and we’re sticking with it for now, even though we can more easily imagine Republicans overperforming that range than underperforming it. The trouble in picking the House seats — and we’ll pick every single one in advance of Nov. 4 — is that there are contradictory signs on the national House map.
    First, the good news for Republicans.
    As mentioned in our Senate piece, Democrats now appear concerned that state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) is doing well enough in her race against Rep. Bruce Braley (D) that it could hurt Democratic prospects in the state’s two Democratic-leaning eastern congressional districts, the open IA-1 (currently held by Braley) and IA-2, held by four-term incumbent Rep. Dave Loebsack (D). Both parties’ House campaign committees are now spending on television in these districts, which Republicans tried but failed to win in their 2010 wave. IA-1 remains the better target for Republicans because it is open, but IA-2 now joins it in the Leans Democratic column. IA-3, a less Democratic open seat that was still won by President Obama in 2012, remains a Toss-up.
    Coming back on to the board this week is Rep. Steven Horsford (D, NV-4). Crossroads GPS, the Karl Rove-founded conservative group, surprisingly bought $820,000 worth of airtime against Horsford in this Democratic-leaning district. Horsford may well be fine, but we’re moving the race from Safe Democratic to Likely Democratic. It’s possible Republicans sense an opportunity because Democratic early voting numbers in Nevada have been dreadful, probably in large part because there is no Senate race and the Democrats did not produce a quality challenger to Gov. Brian Sandoval (R), which might make Horsford weaker than expected. It’s also possible that a large earmarked donation has come into Crossroads for this contest to shake up a sleepy race at the last moment.
    Something similar happened this week in New Jersey, where the Democrat-supporting House Majority PAC took money out of a competitive race in NJ-3 and put it into NJ-1, a very Democratic seat that state Sen. Donald Norcross (D), brother of Garden State political titan George Norcross, is favored to win. The group said that it’s spending the money in NJ-1 because they received donations earmarked for the race. It’s a Safe Democratic seat and will stay as such.
    Some outside groups are also getting involved in HI-1, an open seat contest between former Rep. Charles Djou (R) and state Rep. Mark Takai (D). It should be close but we’re still betting on partisanship — the district is overwhelmingly Democratic — for now, rating the race Likely Democratic. Another race to watch, although the outside groups have not engaged as of yet: Rep. Lois Capps (D, CA-24), who is running against Chris Mitchum (R), son of the late actor Robert Mitchum. Candidate Mitchum claims a tiny lead in a recent internal poll; we doubt he’s right but we’re moving the race from Safe Democratic to Likely Democratic all the same.
    In regards to late television ad buys in eyebrow-raising places, Nick Confessore of the New York Times made a good point on Twitter a couple days ago: “Groups making late buys in second-tier races. Ads are too expensive in top tier, they have late money, and they need to show donors impact.”
    And sometimes candidates can win even when they are badly outspent on the air, are abandoned by their party, and — yes — are indicted. We’ve held off on moving Rep. Michael Grimm (R, NY-11) out of the Leans Democratic column, but the race still appears to be a legitimate Toss-up, so we’re now calling it as such. One problem for Democrats is that their candidate, Domenic Recchia, is from the wrong part of the district (Brooklyn, as opposed to Staten Island). Also, Recchia just isn’t all that great himself. I’ll let Jon Stewart explain why.
    Finally, on the pro-Republican side of the House ledger, we’re moving one of the GOP’s big targets in its direction: We now favor state Sen. Evan Jenkins (R) over Rep. Nick Rahall (R, WV-3), a 19-term incumbent, and are moving the race from Toss-up to Leans Republican.
    Readers may recall we had this race as Leans Republican earlier this cycle, but we moved it back to Toss-up after Rahall re-took the lead. Republicans argue that they’re leading, Democrats say they’re tied and will pull it out in the end. Ultimately, we just think it’s hard for any Democrat to win a district this Republican: Mitt Romney got 65% here in 2012, and this ancestrally Democratic state is trending Republican.
    That said, something interesting is going on in another West Virginia district. And this is where we get into the good news for Democrats.
    We’re hearing that the race for the open WV-2, which is currently held by Senate candidate Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R), is extremely close. There are a lot of factors here. The biggest one is that Republican nominee Alex Mooney is from Maryland — he was once chair of the Old Line State GOP — and is easily attacked as a carpetbagger. A more subtle problem for Mooney is that he chose to live in the Mountain State’s eastern panhandle, while Nick Casey, the Democratic nominee, is from Charleston, which is the heart of the district. A number of local Republican officials are backing Casey, and he even got the endorsement of the Charleston Daily Mail, the more conservative of the two papers in the state capital. The endorsement headline: “In 2nd District U.S. House race, go with the one you know.” Newspaper endorsements don’t move races, but Mooney’s failure to win the endorsement of the paper is emblematic of his larger problems getting conservatives to back him in sufficient numbers. Put it all together, and WV-2 — despite being a 60% Romney seat in 2012 — goes from Leans Republican to Toss-up. One benefit for Casey, and why he might have a better shot than Rahall: He doesn’t have a federal voting record, and Mooney is a much weaker opponent than Jenkins.
    In the same boat is AR-2, an open seat being vacated by Rep. Tim Griffin (R), who is running for lieutenant governor. While Republicans are likely to sweep the Senate and gubernatorial races, the Democratic nominees will almost assuredly perform well in this district, which at 55% Romney in 2012 is several points more Democratic than the state as a whole. Former North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hays (D) has run an energetic campaign against French Hill (R), a former Treasury Department official who Democrats gleefully attack as a “millionaire banker.” Recent independent polling from Talk Business/Hendrix College showed Hays up four points on Hill. This goes from Leans Republican to Toss-up, as well. AR-4, another open seat, is a longer-shot but plausible target for a Democratic takeover, too.
    Last week, we moved the open seat in ME-2 being vacated by gubernatorial candidate Rep. Mike Michaud (D) to Toss-up, but now the National Republican Congressional Committee has canceled its ad buys. So state Sen. Emily Cain (D), just like that, goes back to being the favorite, at Leans Democratic.
    Table 1: Crystal Ball House ratings changes

    The big picture: 231 seats at least Lean Republican, and 189 at least Lean Democratic, with 15 Toss-ups. Ultimately, the Republicans should win most of the Toss-ups, and probably a few that we currently rate as Leans Democratic.
    Check out our ratings below. Next week, as per our tradition, we’re going to remove all the Toss-ups and place each race in at least the leaning categories. We’ll then tweak those ratings up until the election. We pick every House race, and we’re sure to miss more than a few. But it just wouldn’t be any fun otherwise.
    Table 2: Crystal Ball House ratings

    Notes: Members in italics hold seats that the other party’s presidential candidate won in 2012. A red-shaded seat in the Democratic column or a blue-shaded seat in the Republican column means that the incumbent party is an underdog to hold the seat.
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  3. #3
    Senior Member AirborneSapper7's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    South West Florida (Behind friendly lines but still in Occupied Territory)

    Very little in the behavior of the Democrats in particular leads me to think they are confident that things look less grim than the picture painted for them by the public polls.

    Democrats Are Trying to Keep These Polls Suppressed, So We're Covering Them Anyways.
    Since I last looked at the Senate races 11 days ago, the picture of the home stretch has started to come a little more clearly into focus, albeit with a

    Senate Breakers Report October 21, 2014

    Breaking Better

    By: Dan McLaughlin (Diary) | October 21st, 2014 at 05:00 PM | 38

    Since I last looked at the Senate races 11 days ago, the picture of the home stretch has started to come a little more clearly into focus, albeit with a frustratingly large number of undecided voters still showing up in the polls even in states that have already begun early voting. The high number of undecideds is one of several reasons to question the reliability of this year’s polls, although the most likely reason for a surplus of undecideds is that some of those folks are just going to end up staying home – a result that would be good news for GOP candidates who have pulled out to a polling lead (as in Colorado, Iowa and Kentucky) but not so good for candidates in North Carolina and New Hampshire who are crouched in striking distance but still need to be persuading people. However, if you look at the broader trends in the presidential approval and generic ballot polling, you can see that things are again looking up for Republicans – if they can only capitalize on those opportunities.
    I’ll return to the Governors’ races separately soon. You can read my prior posts in this series for an explanation of the methodology.

    I’ve italicized West Virginia, Mississippi and Oregon because there’s no new polling since my last post. I’m also now including Sean Haugh, the Libertarian Party candidate in North Carolina, since RCP now carries a 3-way average and he’s consistently polling around 5% (although history suggests he will likely end up below that). As you can see, there’s still a ton of undecideds in some of these races (hello Michigan), but more and more of them are getting below 10% undecided.
    You’ve probably seen a lot of hue and cry about South Dakota, and the average here – as with Georgia – is a little misleading because the two most recent polls show a tighter race. But unless (as has happened before in this part of the country) the polls are really off, it’s hard to see Rick Weiland having a realistic path to victory, especially because the opportunity to catch Mike Rounds napping has already been lost, and resources are pouring in to shore him up. That said, we probably need another couple of polls to get a fix on whether things are really shifting in South Dakota.
    In Kansas, I stand by the view that, if Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS)Heritage ActionScorecard

    Sen. Pat Roberts
    Senate Republican Average See Full Scorecard 93% pulls ahead of Orman, he’ll be ahead to stay, given the 2014 environment and the natural partisan tilt of the state. Right now, they’re tied in the average, with the trend seeming to favor Roberts, so the next poll or two will bear close watching there as well.
    The trend has been positive enough in New Hampshire and North Carolina to suggest some GOP momentum there as well. Here’s the overall trend since October 1 across all the Senate races:

    If you zero in on the ten closest races (where the top 2 candidates are separated by less than 9 points), you see a more pronounced trend of the GOP candidates widening their leads and moving from below 45 points to above 46, exactly the kind of movement we would expect to see if undecided voters are gradually moving into the GOP column:

    The other “fundamental” indicators are favorable as well, like the generic ballot, which had tightened briefly but is now breaking back open to a GOP lead, a result consistent with what we are seeing in terms of polling and resource allocation in House races across the country:

    Then there’s the recent regression in Obama’s approval rating after a brief recovery:

    And in the states where we have enough polling to have an approval rating average for Obama, you can see that (except for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)Heritage ActionScorecard

    Sen. Jeanne Shaheen
    Senate Democrat Average See Full Scorecard 6% in New Hampshire) the ranking of the Senate races is shaping up about where you would predict from the President’s approval alone:

    We don’t know what the elections will deliver, but the RCP “no leaners” poll average has the GOP gaining 8 seats in the Senate (to 53), and right now, that seems like the reasonable median forecast – and R+10 and 55 seats, while the optimistic scenario, hardly seems like a major stretch at all if North Carolina and New Hampshire fall. Beyond 55 is more in the nature of wishcasting, and of course the Democrats have the same reasons to hold out hope for Georgia, Kansas and South Dakota that Republicans do in North Carolina and New Hampshire.
    There’s still reasons to think the polls may be wrong, as Sean Trende, Nate Silver and Mark Blumenthal explain, and I’ll return to that topic another day – but as Trende and Silver note, there’s no particularly reliable way to tell in advance which direction they might be wrong in.
    I will say this: we have public polls, but the parties have lots more polls than the public does, and therefore have a clearer picture of the landscape – and very little in the behavior of the Democrats in particular leads me to think they are confident that things look less grim than the picture painted for them by the public polls. You can see the desperation in any number of their recent campaign tactics, but I will leave you with this lovely montage of excerpts from recent Democratic fundraising emails quoting, over and over and over again, a single line from a single ABC News report, without even mentioning that that very article said Republicans “still seem on track” to retake the Senate:
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    What to Expect From Senate Polls in the Final Days

    An analysis of polling from last three weeks of recent elections

    Sean Trende, Senior Columnist, Sabato's Crystal Ball October 16th, 2014

    A few weeks ago, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver released a dataset of over 6,000 polls, all conducted within 21 days of the election. This trove of data dates back to 1998, and covers all manner of races: Senate, House, gubernatorial, and presidential.
    This allows us to build some expectations for what we might expect in the closing days of this election. With more time, we could probably be a bit more precise in our analysis, but the shortened time frame still gives us an opportunity to pluck, at the very least, some rules of thumb out of the data.
    For my basic analysis, I ordered Senate polls in each race by date. I simply made a series of three-poll averages (if there were not yet three polls, I took two-poll or one-poll averages as appropriate). I then sorted those averages by date and margin: If a poll concluded 10 days before an election and the average showed a candidate down two percentage points, it was categorized appropriately.
    These data are summarized on the following table, which can best be thought of as the answer to the following question: At any given number of days out, if a candidate has a lead of a certain size, how often does that candidate win?
    Table 1: Percentage of candidates holding on to leads over closing days of election

    Leads are rounded off, so a lead of 1% actually represents an average lead of 0.5-1.49 points.

    An example of how we would read this chart with respect to current polls: Assume that as we get polls from the North Carolina race that concluded Tuesday, Wednesday, or today, they confirm Sen. Kay Hagan’s (D) lead of roughly two points. Candidates who lead by two points 19-21 days out win about 65% of the time. So we’d conclude that Hagan is the favorite, but her lead is not insurmountable.
    On the other hand, let’s assume that polls confirm Dan Sullivan (R) of Alaska’s current lead of around five points. Candidates who lead by five points at that time win 90% of the time over the past eight cycles. In fact, candidates who lead by five points at any point in the third week before the election are 25 for 29 (86%). Put differently, under that circumstance, we’d have a pretty high degree of confidence that Sullivan would win — probably higher than even the formal models are suggesting.
    In fact, to predict a win for Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK), you’d basically have to predict something fundamentally dissimilar about 2014 vis-à-vis 1998 to 2012. Those arguments have been made — the potential success of the Bannock Street project to boost Democratic turnout or a potential collapse in the accuracy of polls due to declining response rates. But those sorts of objections to polls are made every cycle: We don’t really have a good basis for doing anything more than shrugging and acknowledging that this time could be different.
    Regardless, we might want to know a bit more about the sorts of candidates who do lose. In particular, this cycle is notable for the large number of incumbents who find themselves vulnerable. For quite some time, analysis of incumbent races was guided by the so-called “incumbent rule.” This rule, which grew out of a thorough analysis by Nick Panagakis in 1989, postulated that late undecideds tended to break for the challenger, and that an incumbent who fell below 50% was vulnerable and could potentially lose.
    The rule has fallen out of favor, in part because subsequent research has eroded its credibility and in part because people interpreted the rule too literally, with analysts hyperventilating every time an incumbent fell to 48-49% in the polls.
    At the same time, there do seem to be some broad conclusions that we can draw from an incumbent’s vote share:
    Table 2: Win record by incumbent poll share in final 21 days

    As you can see, only one Senate candidate that ever went above 50% in a three-poll average at any point in the last 21 days of a campaign ended up losing: Sen. Al D’Amato (R-NY) in 1998. Only one candidate who hit 50% lost: Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-MI) in 2000. Candidates hitting 49% do lose at times: Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD), George Allen (R-VA), Jim Talent (R-MO), and Slade Gorton (R-WA) all went on to lose — and perhaps significantly, all did so in years when the fundamentals were aligned against their party. But as a general matter, candidates who are at 48-49% in the last 21 days rarely lose. (For the purposes of this analysis, appointees running in their first election are not considered incumbents.)
    There seems to be a cut-point at 46-47%, where an incumbent at that level really does find himself or herself in a Toss-Up race. Below that point, incumbents are in deep trouble. At 45%, only Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL) in 2012, Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Harry Reid (D-NV) in 2010, Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) in 2008, and Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) in 2002 (in Landrieu’s case, this was technically for the primary, not the eventual runoff) went on to win in November. The only incumbents who routinely put up numbers in the low 40s yet won in the fall were Sens. Harry Reid (D-NV) in 2010 and Wayne Allard (R-CO) in 2002.
    Assuming that current poll numbers are more-or-less repeated in the next few days, this is not good news this cycle for Sens. Begich, Landrieu, or Mark Pryor (D-AR), who all find themselves in positions where almost all similarly-positioned incumbents have lost. It suggests that Sens. Hagan and Mark Udall (D-CO) are really in Toss-up races right now, while Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s (D-NH) positioning is probably firmer than many Republicans would like to admit, yet not quite so firm as Democrats believe. It also confirms that Sen. Pat Roberts’ (R-KS) position is precarious — although the unique dynamics of that race potentially set him up to be one of the exceptions. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is also probably more vulnerable than analysts suggest right now, although the fundamentals in that state may likewise position him somewhat similarly to Boxer in 2010.
    On the other hand, it might be that being below 46% might not be a symbol of vulnerability. As Silver has suggested, candidates below 46% might lose not because they are below 46%, but rather because they trail their opponents. That is certainly consistent with the “Allard exception:” Allard was below 45%, but he didn’t trail in the closing days.
    To try to get at this angle, here is a list of incumbents who have trailed in any three-poll average at any point in the final 21 days and gone on to win. I also note the largest margin by which they’ve trailed, and the number of times they trailed in a poll average:

    Table 3: Incumbents who won but trailed in at least one three-poll average in final 21 days

    Note: Deficits are rounded off, so a deficit of one point actually represents an average deficit of 0.5-1.49 points. “Tie” means the margin was less than 0.5 points.
    Here, we see what a true outlier Reid’s win in 2010 represents. He is the only Senate candidate in the last eight cycles to fall behind his opponent by more than two points in the closing days of the campaign who then went on to win in the fall. Again, these are not promising data for Pryor, Landrieu, or Begich. On the other hand, it is a useful reminder that poll failures do occur, although they are rare.
    What about incumbents who lead in the closing days of the election, but then go on to lose?
    Table 4: Incumbents who lost but led in at least one three-poll average in final 21 days

    Leads are rounded off, so a lead of one point actually represents an average lead of 0.5-1.49 points.

    Spencer Abraham, the most recent Republican senator from Michigan, stands out as something of the ultimate cautionary tale: A candidate who led by as many as 13 points in the closing days of a race, who led consistently, in 12 poll averages, and yet who lost. But as a general matter, it is fully possible for candidates with multiple leads of reasonably large size to go on to lose in November.
    If there is a unifying theme among these incumbents who led, but lost, it is that they were running in environments that were overall unfavorable for their parties: Republicans in 1998, 2000, 2006 and 2008, Democrats in 2002 and 2004. All of them represented states that were either aligned against their party in presidential elections, or purple (as Missouri was in 2004 and 2008).
    There are again limitations to this methodology, and doubtless follow-up work will be needed for future elections. In particular, we would want some cross-analysis: How did incumbents who were both below 50% and trailed fare versus those who led, and so forth. We’d also want some sort of analysis for open races. But unfortunately, we don’t have a well-worn theory to test there.
    But based on this analysis, I think we’d say as follows: Pryor, Landrieu, and Begich are in deep trouble. It would probably require a fundamental shift in historic patterns for them to win. This could absolutely happen, but it is extremely difficult to predict these sorts of shifts. Analysts trying to predict these shifts might be correct every now and again, but over the long run, they will be wrong more often than not.
    The Senate race in Colorado and even North Carolina really should be considered Toss-ups. We would probably put a thumb on the scale for Hagan, and a thumb on the scale against Udall (although the introduction of all-mail balloting really does create some added uncertainty about the polls here). On the Republican side, we’d see McConnell and Roberts as Toss-ups as well, although the national environment and orientation of their states probably counsels putting a thumb on the scale for them (a very light one in Roberts’ case). Finally, Shaheen isn’t out of the woods, although the forest line is in sight.
    This doesn’t mean that Senate control is a done deal for Republicans by any stretch. But it should be sobering for the analyst attempting to sketch out how the next three weeks will go for Democrats. To predict Democrats retaining Senate control, you basically have to bet on (a) Democrats sweeping South Dakota, Iowa, Colorado, and North Carolina; (b) picking off enough Republican seats in very red states like Kentucky, Kansas, or Georgia to offset any losses in (a) or; (c) systemic polling failure. You can make a plausible case for each of those scenarios, with (b) probably being the most likely. Regardless, given the current state of polling and knowing how races have behaved over the past few cycles, those really do appear to be the options left for Democrats.
    Sean Trende is the senior elections analyst for RealClearPolitics and a senior columnist for the Crystal Ball. He is the author of The Lost Majority: Why the Future of Government Is Up for Grabs and Who Will Take It, and co-author of the Almanac of American Politics 2014. Follow Sean on Twitter @SeanTrende
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    New Poll Shows Just How Much November’s Mid-Terms Could Shake Things Up

    By Michael Hausam (7 hours ago) | Editor's Choice, Elections

    A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Annenberg survey had some stunning results and they certainly will have a huge impact in next month’s elections.
    Some of the results:

    • 52% of likely voters said they wanted the election to produce a Republican-led Congress.
    • 41% wanted a Democrat-led one.
    • This 11-point lead from this week was up from 5 points last week.
    • Among registered voters, a larger group than likely voters, there was a 46% to 42% lead for the Republicans, a 100% increase from the week before.
    • 57% disapprove of the President’s handling of ISIS, with 87% saying it was not aggressive enough.

    The current polling for next month’s elections show a pretty close race for the Senate, with each party safe with 45 seats and 10 states considered toss-ups:

    Image credit: Real Clear PoliticsThe House will remain in Republican hands with the only question being if they will pick up more seats:

    Image credit: Real Clear PoliticsAs far as governorships, it looks like Republicans will also advance here, with the only question being the size of the gain:

    Image credit: Real Clear PoliticsThe countdown is now measured in weeks and days, and it will be incredibly interesting to see what happens.
    If this poll is any indicator, it is likely to be a midterm election of historic levels. And one that makes a very clear statement by voters in which direction they’d like the country to be heading.
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    New Poll Gives GOP Slight Edge in Three Crucial States

    Sunday, 26 Oct 2014 08:38 PM
    By Sandy Fitzgerald

    New NBC News/Marist polls show Republicans may take control of the Senate for the first time in eight years, but many of the poll leads are within the surveys' margin of error and GOP candidates have not yet locked down some of the races.

    According to the polls, released on Sunday, Republicans hold slight advantages in Arkansas, Colorado, and Iowa, with the North Carolina race still in a dead heat, reports Politico.

    An independent candidate is in a tie with the GOP incumbent in Kansas, the polls reveal, while in South Dakota, Republican Mike Rounds is leading by double digits.

    Montana, West Virginia, and South Dakota are all considered tied up for Republicans, but the GOP will need to pick up three wins out of Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, and North Carolina. Out of the six states, North Carolina is still a toss-up while the other five lean Republican.

    Meanwhile, Republicans may still need to pick up seats if they lose Georgia, which appears headed for a runoff race; Kansas, or Kentucky, Politico reports.

    In Arkansas, the NBC/Marist poll shows Republican Rep. Tom Cotton is running two points ahead of Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor, at 45 percent to 43 percent. Third-party candidates are splitting five percent of the vote and seven percent of likely voters are undecided, meaning the race could still flip either way. The poll of 621 likely voters, conducted Oct. 19-23, carried a margin of error of 3.9 percentage points.

    Cotton received higher favorability ratings in the poll. He was viewed favorably by 46 percent and unfavorably by 43 percent, compared to voters who view Pryor, a two-term incumbent, unfavorably by 49 percent and favorably by 41 percent.

    Pryor also appears to be hindered by President Barack Obama's sinking popularity ratings. Only 34 percent of the voters, and one-quarter of white voters, approve of Obama's job performance, the poll revealed.

    In the Arkansas governor's race, Republican Asa Hutchinson was ahead of Democrat Mike Ross by three points.

    In Colorado, Republican Rep. Cory Gardner and Democratic Sen. Mark Udall are in a virtual tie, with Gardner ahead by 46 percent to 45 percent. Three percent of the 755 likely voters polled said they favor another candidate, and five percent remain undecided.

    The poll carries a 3.6 percentage point margin of error.

    The Latino vote will be vital in the election, with Udall leading that segment by four points in the poll. Udall, who has made women's issues a focus in the campaign, leads female voters by 11 points at 51 to 40 percent, with Gardner leading men by 15 points at 53 percent to 38 percent.

    Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is seeking a second term in office, came out ahead of challenger Bob Beauprez, a former Republican representative, with a 46 percent to 41 percent lead.

    In Iowa, the 772 likely votes polled gave GOP Senate candidate Joni Ernst a three-point lead over Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley, putting the race inside the poll's 3.5 percent margin of error, reports Politico.

    Five percent of likely voters said they prefer another candidate or were undecided.

    Each candidate nabbed 90 percent of their party's voters, but Ernst has an eight-point edge among independents.

    Meanwhile, men are backing Ernst by 12 points, at 54 percent to 42 percent, and Braley leads female voters by 49 percent to 44 percent, the poll said.

    Voters gave Ernst a tied favorability rating, at 44 percent, while Braley had a 39 percent favorable and 46 percent unfavorable rating.

    In the governor's race, Republican Gov. Terry Branstad appears headed for a sixth term, leading Democratic challenger Jack Hatch by 59 percent to 36 percent.
    In the Kansas race, independent Greg Orman is running even with GOP Sen. Pat Roberts. Orman has not said which party he will caucus with if he is elected, reports Politico.

    Four percent of the voters said they favor Libertarian candidate Randall Batson, and seven percent of the voters remain undecided.

    Orman has a huge Democratic backing, taking 81 percent of those polled, but also took 15 percent of Republicans. In addition, 60 percent of the independents picked Orman.

    Roberts has a negative favorability rating of 43 percent to 46 percent, the poll shows, while Orman's rating was positive at 42 percent to 37 percent. However, 18 percent of the likely voters said they do not yet have an impression one way or the other with Orman.

    In the governor's race, Democrat Paul Davis came out ahead of Gov. Sam Brownback by just one point, but carried three out of five independent voters in the poll of 757 likely voters, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

    North Carolina's poll put Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican challenger Thom Tillis at a 43 percentage point each tie, giving Libertarian Sean Haugh seven percent and leaving six percent undecided.

    However, there was a large gender gap, giving Tillis 11 points among men and Hagan 10 points among women. But there is also a "marriage gap" in play, with wedded women giving Tillis a seven-point margin and unmarried women giving Hagan a 57 percent to 28 percent lead.

    Both Hagan and Tillis have negative image ratings, the poll said, with Hagan's percentages at 41 percent to 48 percent and Tillis' at 40 percent to 44 percent.

    The poll surveyed 756 likely voters and has a plus or minus 3.6 percentage point margin of error.

    The South Dakota poll
    of 540 likely voters, with a 4.2 percentage point margin of error, gave former GOP Gov. Mike Rounds a 14-point lead over Democrat Rick Weiland, with 16 percent of respondents picking independent Larry Pressler, who held the Senate seat as a Republican for 18 years, reports Politico.

    Rounds took 78 percent of the Republicans responding, compared to 9 percent for Pressler, but among independents, Rounds and Pressler are running even.

    Republican incumbent Gov. Dennis Daugaard appears headed for reelection with a 39-point lead over Democrat Susan Wismer, the poll revealed.

    Related stories:
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    Glenn Beck


    2014 Election: The races we're watching
    Glenn dedicated the radio show to comprehensive coverage of the midterms

    2014 Election: Freedomworks’ Adam Brandon breaks down the key races

    Monday, Oct 27, 2014 at 3:31 PM EDT

    Video at the page link:

    As you may have noticed, Glenn has been increasingly focusing outside of Washington, DC for solutions. Yes, elections are still important, but the primary battleground is at home and in the culture. That said, it remains vital to elect good people to represent us in DC. On radio this morning, Glenn kicked things off by speaking with Adam Brandon, Executive Vice President of FreedomWorks.


    Video at the page link:

    Below is a list of the candidates FreedomWorks is supporting in the midterms, as well as links to interviews Glenn conducted on radio today.
    In the Senate:
    Nebraska – Ben Sasse
    Louisiana – Rob Maness

    Over in the House, Freedomworks candidates still standing…
    Utah – Mia Love
    Washington – Clint Didier
    Maryland – Dan Bongino
    Maine – Bruce Poliquin
    West Virginia – Alex Mooney
    New Hampshire – Maralinda Garcia
    Iowa – Rod Blum
    Georgia – Barry Loudermilk
    North Carolina – Vince Coakley
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    House Dems fret debilitating losses

    Operatives from both parties expect Republicans to net five to 10 seats. | Getty

    By ALEX ISENSTADT | 10/28/14 5:06 AM EDT
    Updated: 10/28/14 11:58 AM EDT

    The political environment continues to deteriorate for House Democrats ahead of a midterm election that’s certain to diminish their ranks.
    With President Barack Obama’s unpopularity hindering their candidates and Republican cash flooding into races across the country, Democrats are increasingly worried that the election will push them deep into the minority and diminish their hopes of winning back the majority in 2016 or beyond.
    Looking to contain the damage, Democrats are pumping money into liberal congressional districts that were long thought to be safely in their column. Over the last several days, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has directed resources to maintain seats in Hawaii and Nevada, both of which broke sharply for the president in 2012 — an indication of just how much the terrain has shifted against the party over the past two years.
    (POLITICO's polling center)
    Other unexpected races are suddenly in play. Some Democrats, for example, have begun to worry about the prospects of California Rep. Lois Capps, an eight-term congresswoman who is typically a lock for reelection but who now finds herself in a competitive race against Republican Chris Mitchum, a perennial candidate and the son of the late actor Robert Mitchum. In a sign of how seriously national Democrats are taking the threat, the DCCC is making a last-minute purchase of $99,000 worth of radio advertising in the Santa Barbara area to boost Capps, according to a committee aide.
    Operatives from both parties expect Republicans to net five to 10 seats, which would give them some cushion heading into what’s expected to be a much more challenging 2016. Some Republicans, trying to tamp down rising expectations of even bigger gains, point out that a recently-redistricted congressional map has dramatically narrowed the playing field of competitive districts and limited potential pick-ups.
    They also caution that they have yet to put away Democrats in many races that remain close.
    Still, as the election heads into the final week, it’s clear that the landscape is tilting against Democrats. Of the 30 House races seen as most likely to change hands, 23 are held by Democrats.
    (Full 2014 election results)
    Capps isn’t the only incumbent Democratic officials are scrambling at the last minute to defend. DCCC Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) recently coordinated a fundraising event for Rep. Dave Loebsack, a fourth-term Iowa incumbent who has recently come under barrage from GOP groups, and reached out to donors on his behalf.
    On Tuesday afternoon, Israel and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will hold a hastily-planned conference call for members to provide them with an update on the political terrain and to press them to contribute to the party’s coffers.
    “There’s no question it’s a tough climate for Democrats right now but it certainly doesn’t come as a surprise,” said Emily Bittner, a DCCC spokeswoman. “Heading into the final week of the election every single Democratic incumbent is still competitive, which is drastically different from the situation in 2010.”
    Party operatives say Obama is weighting down House candidates across the country. In the districts of 24 of the 30 most vulnerable Democratic incumbents, more voters say they view the president unfavorably than favorably, according to polling data conducted over the last month for party strategists and provided to POLITICO. In 10 of those 24 races, Democratic lawmakers have recently lost ground along with the president.
    (POLITICO's 2014 race ratings)
    The effect is particularly acute in culturally conservative bastions like West Virginia and downstate Illinois, where Democratic strategists say Reps. Nick Rahall and Bill Enyart are watching their reelection hopes fade due in large measure to Obama’s diminished standing. Republicans have tethered both incumbents to the president: One new TV ad against Enyart imagines him and Obama together on posters made famous during the president’s 2008 campaign.
    “Make no mistake,” the commercial says. “The Obama-Enyart agenda is devastating to our families and bankrupting southern Illinois.”
    Other House Democrats have been encumbered by subpar performances of their party’s statewide candidates. Leading that list is Iowa Senate hopeful Bruce Braley, who party operatives say is dragging down three of their congressional contenders in the state.
    Money is another worry. Republican groups have poured cash into House races in the final weeks, erasing a once formidable Democratic financial advantage. Since July 1, GOP outfits have spent $99.4 million, while Democrats have invested $81.9 million, according to campaign filings.
    In many instances, Republicans are spending money to put races in play that had long been considered safe for Democrats. American Action Network, a national group with ties to House Speaker John Boehner, has begun airing TV commercials in blue districts in Hawaii and eastern Iowa.
    The maneuvering has prompted Democratic groups to yank money from districts they’re trying to seize from Republicans in order to protect seats they already control. Over the past several weeks, the DCCC has pulled funds from top recruits in Colorado and Virginia and begun running TV ads in two eastern Iowa districts, both of which Obama won in 2012.
    On Monday, House Speaker John Boehner visited the Iowa districts to campaign for GOP hopefuls Rod Blum, a software company owner seeking the seat Braley is vacating to run for Senate, and Mariannette Miller-Meeks, an opthamologist waging a campaign for the seat Loebsack occupies. A poll released on Monday showed Blum climbing to a narrow 43 percent to 42 percent lead over his Democratic opponent, state Rep. Pat Murphy.
    “All year,” said Cory Fritz, a Boehner spokesman, “the speaker has been emphasizing the importance of making the most of every opportunity.”
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    Bet on a Republican Senate Majority

    Larry J. Sabato, Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley, Sabato's Crystal Ball October 30th, 2014
    Join the Crystal Ball team Monday night at the University of Virginia for a free presentation on the 2014 midterms. Visit the U.Va. Center for Politics website for more information and to register to attend.

    A version of this article originally appeared in
    Politico Magazine Wednesday evening.
    While many races remain close, it’s just getting harder and harder to envision a plausible path for the Democrats to retain control of the Senate. Ultimately, with just a few days to go before the election, the safe bet would be on Republicans eventually taking control of the upper chamber.
    We say eventually because there’s a decent chance we won’t know who wins the Senate on Election Night. Louisiana is guaranteed to go to a runoff, and Georgia seems likelier than not to do the same. The Georgia runoff would be Jan. 6, 2015, three days after the 114th Congress is scheduled to open. Vote-counting in some states, like Alaska, will take days, and other races are close enough to trigger a recount.
    Generally speaking, candidates who have leads of three points or more in polling averages are in solid shape to win, but in this election five states — Republican-held Georgia and Kansas, and Democratic-held Iowa, New Hampshire, and North Carolina — feature a Senate race where both of the two major polling averages (RealClearPolitics and HuffPost Pollster) show the leading candidate with an edge of smaller than three points.
    What makes the Democrats’ situation so precarious is that Republicans have polling leads of more than three points in five other states, all of which are currently held by Democrats: Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia. Two others, Democratic-held Alaska and Colorado, show Republicans leading in both averages, but by more than three points in just one. (These averages are as of Wednesday afternoon.)
    The wealth of GOP targets is a reflection of the structural advantages that have favored Republicans in this election, some of which don’t have anything to do with a specific campaign.
    Those are:
    Obama’s troubles: President Obama’s approval ratings are in the low 40s, and midterm elections are very often a vote against the party that occupies the White House, particularly if the occupant is unpopular.
    A great map: This Senate map is the most-Republican leaning of the three Senate classes up for election once every six years. These seats were last on the ballot in 2008, a big Democratic year. American politics is about surges and declines: In 2008 came the surge for Democrats, and in 2014 comes the decline.
    Partisan polarization: The increasing partisanship of American politics and the American people makes it harder and harder for Democrats to win in Republican states and districts, and vice-versa. Seven Democrats hold Senate seats contested this year in states that supported Mitt Romney in 2012. Six of those states are very Republican at the presidential level — Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia — and Republicans are probably at least slightly favored to win all six of their Senate races. The seventh, North Carolina, is gettable if the GOP has a big night. Republicans only have to defend one seat in an Obama state, Maine, and GOP Sen. Susan Collins has the race all but wrapped up.
    Democratic difficulties: The Democrats had a string of Senate retirements in places like Iowa, Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia, all of which improved Republican odds to win those states. The replacement Democratic candidates in these states have generally been poor, none more so than appointed Sen. John Walsh, whose plagiarism forced him from the ballot in Montana and prompted the Democrats to wave the white flag in a Senate seat they had never lost since the advent of popular Senate elections a century ago.
    Decent GOP candidates: Establishment-backed Republicans won basically every meaningful Senate primary this year. While some Republican candidates have misfired, like Terri Lynn Land in Michigan, the GOP has not had a clearly disastrous candidacy turn victory into defeat in any single state, unlike 2010 and 2012 — although David Perdue in Georgia and Thom Tillis in North Carolina are testing this proposition. To the contrary, the Senate candidate this cycle most associated with gaffes is a Democrat, Bruce Braley of Iowa.
    Those big factors all point to a good night for Republicans on Tuesday.
    Map 1: Crystal Ball Senate ratings

    The GOP’s many paths to 51

    The Senate math starts with the seats that are not up this cycle and the safe seats that are not on the verge of flipping parties. Of the 83 seats that fit those categories, 42 are held by Republicans and 41 by Democrats.
    Democratic incumbents in Minnesota, Oregon, and Virginia all occupy seats we rate Likely Democratic, and Rep. Gary Peters (D) is well positioned to keep the open seat in Michigan in Democratic hands. These four holds put Democrats at 45 seats.
    Republicans have two surefire pickups in Montana and West Virginia, and they can probably count on South Dakota, too. This is a ratings change for the Crystal Ballwe’re moving the Mount Rushmore State from Leans Republican to Likely Republican. Ex-Gov. Mike Rounds’ (R) troubles don’t seem sufficiently large enough to open the door for Rick Weiland (D) or ex-Republican Sen. Larry Pressler, whose position in the race has faded to some degree. We also rate both the Kentucky and Arkansas races as Likely Republican, with the Razorback race providing the GOP with its fourth pick-up. Accounting for these contests, Republicans are at 47 seats in our calculus.
    Now this is where things get murkier. Alaska, Colorado, and Iowa appear to be edging toward Republicans. In our Crystal Ball ratings, we’ve had both Alaska and Iowa leaning to the Republicans, and we continue to do so even though there’s uncertainty in both states, Alaska in particular: If any Democrat confounds the polls, it could be Sen. Mark Begich (D). Iowa is also close, although state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) has consistently held a small lead in public polling, and Democrats are sounding alarms about Rep. Bruce Braley’s performance in the state’s two eastern, more Democratic-leaning congressional districts. Additionally, their vaunted early voting machine might not be as dominant this year. The tea leaves in this race do not augur well for the Democrats.
    Polling in Colorado misfired in both 2010 and 2012, underestimating the Democratic vote in both years, and Democrats are banking on a similar mishap, along with the state’s new all-mail balloting boosting Democratic turnout, delivering an upset victory for Sen. Mark Udall (D), who trails in nearly all independent polling to Rep. Cory Gardner (R). That is possible, but there is also reason to be skeptical. For one thing, Gardner is unquestionably a superior candidate to Ken Buck, the Republican who fumbled the 2010 race against Sen. Michael Bennet (D). And some pollsters have no doubt learned from their past mistakes. Gardner’s lead in polling averages is around three points, right around where we’d expect him to be to have a good shot of winning. So we’re calling Colorado Leans Republican, now, too, to go along with Alaska and Iowa.
    Are we supremely confident about these three very tight match-ups? Of course not: each one is a crap shoot. It’s possible we might reverse a call or two before our final picks appear on Monday; in squeakers, last-minute trends matter.
    Adding these close races to the GOP total puts Republicans at 50 Senate seats, one shy of a majority.
    New Hampshire and North Carolina still lean to the Democrats. The latter contest is particularly close at this point, though Sen. Kay Hagan (D) still retains a slim lead over Thom Tillis (R). Even though he’s made up considerable ground in New Hampshire, a victory by former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) would still rank as mildly surprising — and a sure-fire indicator of a big GOP night. For now, though, the Democrats are narrowly ahead, and that makes the Democratic total 47 seats.
    Complicating matters are the two contests that we rate as Toss-up/Leans Runoff, meaning that we can’t pick a final winner at this point because we expect overtime. In Georgia there are enough undecided voters to push either David Perdue (R) or Michelle Nunn (D) over the top on Nov. 4, but it won’t be easy. Let’s say for the moment that both Louisiana and Georgia go to runoff. They are red states, though the Peach State is turning plum-purple. Nonetheless, it seems reasonable to expect the GOP to win at least one of these two seats (if not both) in the end. That would get the Republicans to their magic number, 51, or even 52.
    Finally, there’s one seat we still view as a pure toss-up: Kansas. That’s not only because the race is very tight, but also because it’s hard to say with which party independent Greg Orman would caucus if he defeats Sen. Pat Roberts (R). A victorious Orman is going to play the Senate version of “Let’s Make a Deal,” and both parties will be putting rich prizes behind Doors 1 and 2.
    If we give Democrats most of the breaks in the close contests, it’s certainly possible they could achieve a 50-50 Senate split, and thus a Biden majority (with the vice president breaking the tie in their favor). Yet given the fundamentals of the 2014 cycle, that outcome remains unlikely. The Republicans have more credible paths to 51 than the Democrats do to 50. This was true in January and it is still true just days from the election.
    Table 1: Crystal Ball Senate ratings changes


    Prof. James Campbell of the University at Buffalo-SUNY recently noted that in Senate races “since 1912, of the 14 midterms in a party’s second presidential term or more, the out-party has gained six seats or more nearly two-thirds of the time (9 of 14).” In other words, a GOP Senate takeover in a president’s sixth-year midterm would be very much in line with history — and with the roughly “two out of three” chance for a Republican majority that we have asserted for months.
    Even though the GOP is poised to do well in the Senate, the party’s performance probably will not qualify as a broad-based wave. Though perhaps election watchers will be surprised by the size of Republican gains on Election Night, we expect to see a kind of red-tinged “full-moon high tide” rather than a tsunami. Despite favorable conditions and a near-ideal map, Republicans have had to struggle right to the final hours to position themselves for their Senate majority. The public’s unfavorable view of the GOP, which is even greater than the disgust with Democrats, will likely keep the party from achieving a true sweep — and suggests the hard work ahead by the GOP in Congress and the eventual presidential nominee in 2016.
    The 2014 midterm, no matter the outcome, does not hold real predictive value for 2016. We’ve often compared this year with 1986, where Democrats bounced back to capture the Senate on a highly favorable map in President Reagan’s “sixth-year itch” second midterm. Of course, two years later, the country elected a Republican president for the third straight time. Could the current GOP meet with a similar fate? The results next Tuesday certainly won’t tell us.
    Alternately, 2014 might prove to be like 2006, a great Democratic year that foreshadowed another great Democratic year. For all the legitimate talk of the Democrats’ growing demographic edge in presidential elections, the advantage could be blunted by an unpopular President Obama, who like then-President George W. Bush could drag down his party in consecutive elections. Obama’s approval rating is very important in the outcome of the next presidential election: If his approval rating continues to stagnate or sinks even lower, his standing will once again imperil Democrats, just as it did in 2010 and 2014. Democrats in and out of Congress will need to find ways to help Obama leave office on a high note, because their fortunes — and that of the Democratic nominee picked to succeed him — will still be linked to his.
    But it’s too soon for speculations about the distant future when Tuesday looms large. Check back on Monday for our final picks in Senate, gubernatorial, and House races, which will be posted both at Politico and on the Crystal Ball website.

    As Election Day Closes in, Tight Gubernatorial Races Abound

    Bevy of new ratings but still many razor-thin contests

    Geoffrey Skelley, Associate Editor, Sabato's Crystal Ball October 30th, 2014
    Can we be brutally frank? The governors’ races are really tough to call this year.
    As of Wednesday afternoon, 11 contests had margins of three points or less in either HuffPost Pollster or RealClearPolitics’ polling averages (nine were inside that mark in both).
    Of those 11 races, 10 feature incumbents seeking reelection. We’ve mentioned before that this cycle has at least some small chance of threatening the modern mark for incumbent governor losses: In 1962, 11 of 26 gubernatorial incumbents met defeat at the ballot box. That said, the actual number of incumbent losses will likely be about half that or maybe even less.
    The most recent polling and reports from our confidential sources indicate that a number of incumbents’ positions have recovered or stabilized, necessitating ratings changes less than a week before the election. We also have shifts in some open races, and 10 new ratings in total.
    Among the many competitive races featuring incumbents, there are some important changes. Probably the most notable adjustment is in Colorado. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) has narrowly led former Rep. Bob Beauprez (R) in most recent polling, and appears to be trending in the right direction just days out. Between Hickenlooper and Sen. Mark Udall (D), another vulnerable Centennial State Democrat, “Hick” looks likelier to survive. We’re shifting the Colorado gubernatorial race from Toss-up to Leans Democratic.
    Out west in Alaska, Gov. Sean Parnell (R) had fallen behind independent Bill Walker. But the incumbent’s numbers have recovered somewhat in the averages: While he still trails Walker in RealClearPolitics, Parnell has moved slightly ahead in HuffPost Pollster. This race is right on the knife’s edge (or perhaps the tip of a Kodiak’s claw?). Either way, the Alaska governor’s battle moves back from Leans Independent to Toss-up.
    We have two mildly unfavorable ratings changes for gubernatorial incumbents in New Hampshire and Oregon. In the Granite State, first-term Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) is seeking her second two-year term against businessman Walt Havenstein (R). (New Hampshire and Vermont are the only two states with two-year gubernatorial terms.) Hassan’s lead has narrowed consistently over the past two months, much like Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s (D) now-slimmer edge in the Granite State’s Senate race. Hassan is still favored to win — New Hampshirites rarely throw out first-term governors seeking reelection — but the race shifts from Likely Democratic to Leans Democratic. In Oregon, Cylvia Hayes, the fianceé of Gov. John Kitzhaber (D), has caused the incumbent some problems in recent days. First, reports surfaced that Hayes may have taken advantage of her appropriated title as First Lady to help her consultancy business. Then news broke about how nearly two decades ago she took $5,000 to marry an Ethiopian to solve the foreigner’s residency problems. While Hayes’ actions don’t appear likely to threaten Kitzhaber’s position as the favorite, the last couple polls have shown him ahead by a narrower margin over state Rep. Dennis Richardson (R). Given these developments, we’re moving the Oregon contest from Safe Democratic to Likely Democratic.
    The Crystal Ball also has six new ratings in open seats. Undoubtedly, the most noteworthy is our change in Massachusetts, where we now see 2010 nominee Charlie Baker (R) as a narrow favorite against state Attorney General Martha Coakley (D). Despite its deep blue hue, Bay Staters have shown an affinity for electing Republicans to the state’s top executive office. Here’s an amazing statistic given today’s polarized politics: Over the past 50 years Republicans have occupied the governorship for a longer time in Massachusetts (26 years) than in ruby red Kansas (22 years). (By the way, we still view the Kansas race as a Toss-up.) Coakley’s own internal surveys show her losing by two points, and the polling averages both show slender Baker leads, with the Republican moving in the right direction. In light of this, the Massachusetts gubernatorial contest shifts from Toss-up to Leans Republican.
    Meanwhile, the race in Maryland appears to have tightened. While Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D) leads the polling averages by a fair margin, we have received numerous substantive reports regarding the Democrat’s apparent weakness as he attempts to succeed Gov. Martin O’Malley (D). Larry Hogan (R), a former member of ex-Gov. Bob Ehrlich’s (R) cabinet, is making things interesting in the solidly Democratic Old Line State, interesting enough that President Obama made a campaign appearance on behalf of Brown. Perhaps it wasn’t a good sign when some people left the speech early. While Brown remains the favorite — it is difficult to justify a belief that any Republican could win statewide here except under extraordinary circumstances — we are compelled to move the Maryland race from Likely Democratic to Leans Democratic. It is worth noting that the last two open-seat contests for governor in the state (1994 and 2002) were both decided by less than five points, with the Ehrlich win in the latter year representing the only time since 1966 (Spiro Agnew) that a Republican won the governorship.
    The race in the nation’s smallest state is proving to be more competitive than some might have anticipated: A Brown University poll found Rhode Island Treasurer Gina Raimondo (D) only ahead of Cranston Mayor Allan Fung (R) by one point. Other surveys have shown Raimondo ahead, but not comfortably, so we’re shifting the race from Likely Democratic to Leans Democratic. Republicans often win the governorship here.
    Two other open seats are now more certain to remain in Republican hands after Nov. 4. In Arizona there’s little indication that former state Board of Regents Chairman Fred DuVal (D) is closing the gap on state Treasurer Doug Ducey (R). Thus, the Arizona governor’s battle moves from Leans Republican to Likely Republican. In Nebraska, businessman and 2006 Senate nominee Pete Ricketts (R) is well ahead of Chuck Hassebrook (D), the former director of the Center for Rural Affairs. The Cornhusker State race moves off the board, going from Likely Republican to Safe Republican.
    The only good news for Democrats in an open-seat race can be found in Hawaii. Former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona (R) might have been in a good position to defeat Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D), but then Abercrombie managed to score the worst gubernatorial incumbent primary loss in history, falling to state Sen. David Ige (D) in August. Although independent ex-Democrat Mufi Hannemann appeared to be a potential thorn in Ige’s side, the polls have the Democratic nominee comfortably ahead, and our sources confirm as much. The Aloha State contest moves from Leans Democratic to Likely Democratic.
    Another longstanding Crystal Ball rating has been to show the Maine race leaning to Rep. Mike Michaud (D) over incumbent Gov. Paul LePage (R), but this has been a very tenuous rating because of the presence of independent Eliot Cutler on the ballot, who could siphon off enough anti-LePage votes to tip the race to the incumbent. However, Michaud’s path got a little clearer when Cutler, a distant third in the race, told his supporters that they were essentially free to support another candidate. After that, Sen. Angus King, also an independent, switched his endorsement from Cutler to Michaud. As Cutler’s vote total goes down, Michaud probably benefits. So we’re reaffirming our rating in that race.
    One other gubernatorial note: On Wednesday, the respected Marquette Law School poll showed Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) up 50%-43% on Democratic challenger Mary Burke. That’s a big margin compared to other polls, but we’ve had this race at least leaning to Walker the entire cycle — we’ve never called it a Toss-up — and barring some strange turn over the weekend, we expect Walker to pull it out.
    Table 1: Crystal Ball gubernatorial ratings changes

    All told, these 10 ratings adjustments leave our national totals at 25 Republicans, 19 Democrats, and six Toss-ups. We will make final calls for all gubernatorial races on Monday, Nov. 3.
    Map 1: Crystal Ball gubernatorial ratings

    House 2014: Calling the Toss-Ups, Take 1

    Kyle Kondik, Managing Editor, Sabato's Crystal Ball October 30th, 2014
    Republicans and Democrats on both sides of the House campaign are fretting.
    The elephants worry that they have not clearly put away any single Democratic House incumbent — which is true — and that they are going to underperform, not just by a seat or two, the goal of winning 245 seats set by National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R, OR-2). A 245-seat House Republican majority would require the party to net 11 seats.
    Meanwhile, the donkeys are alarmed at a gradually expanding map of vulnerable seats that require outside help — this is also true — and a deteriorating national environment that could see a larger-than-expected number of seats slip away. That means losses in the double digits and potentially the biggest House Republican majority since before the Great Depression (247 Republican seats, or a GOP gain of 13).
    To be fair, there’s probably some expectations-setting going on by operatives on both sides: Given all the legitimate uncertainty, there’s a natural inclination to downplay one’s chances in order to more credibly claim that expectations have been beaten on Election Day.
    Here’s what we know, or think we know: Democrats will not net seats this year. If they did, it would be only the fourth time in 39 midterms held since the Civil War that the party controlling the White House gained ground in the House. The only exceptions were President Franklin Roosevelt’s Democrats in 1934, President Bill Clinton’s Democrats in 1998, and President George W. Bush’s Republicans in 2002: Those were special circumstances brought on by a Great Depression, a great economy and Republican overreach, and a reaction to Sept. 11 and impending war.
    No such special factors exist this year. President Obama is unpopular and the electorate tilts red. Republicans lead on the House generic ballot nationally by about two or three points, a smaller lead than they enjoyed in 2010 (high single digits in averages) but still sufficient to provide them a national push to make gains.
    How many? To determine that, one has to go seat by seat.
    Unlike in Senate and gubernatorial races, there is not much credible public polling to go by, and because all House polling is inherently so unpredictable — sample sizes are small, voters are less familiar with the candidates, etc. — the party internals are far from perfect. These races can also break late, particularly in a year when one party has the advantage, as the Republicans do this year.
    In many of the closest races, a flip of a coin might give a handicapper a better chance of being right than heeding the expert opinion of top operatives speaking candidly. That’s not an insult to the operatives, whose off-the-record comments have greatly informed our thinking on these races: Rather, it’s just a nod to how difficult it is to confidently and accurately predict individual House contests. For partisans, hope sometimes colors judgment.
    With all that said — we’re going to try to pick them all, anyway.
    This week, we’re removing all the Toss-ups from our House ratings. We will adjust these ratings over the weekend and offer our final, best guesses on Monday.
    Last week, we had 15 Toss-ups. As befitting the Republican tint of this midterm, most of them — 11 — now Lean Republican. Between that and other tweaks, we’re setting Republican net House gains at nine, on the high end of the range of expected gains we’ve had for the past few weeks (six to nine). Take a look at the two tables below: The first highlights the 22 ratings changes we’re making this week, and the second shows the current ratings in all the seats we see as at least moderately competitive. This obviously does not include the 211 Republican and 166 Democratic seats we view as Safe. Readers who do not see their House district listed below can find ratings for all 435 House seats on the Crystal Ball website.
    Table 1: Crystal Ball House ratings changes

    Table 2: Crystal Ball House ratings

    Note: Seats where we are projecting the incumbent party to lose are in bold.
    In order to better explain these ratings, let’s split them into three categories: The Endangered, the Survivors, and the Favorites.
    The Endangered

    This list includes the 15 seats listed in bold in the table: These are the seats that we’re picking to change parties. We have three Republican seats going from red to blue, and 12 Democratic seats going from blue to red: That’s how we get the nine-seat GOP gain.
    Let’s start with the shorter list, the Democratic gains.
    Democrats have long considered CA-31, the seat of retiring Rep. Gary Miller (R) and the most Democratic district held by any Republican, their best pickup opportunity. The reason Republicans hold it is fluky: Miller and another Republican advanced to the state’s top-two primary in 2012, which meant voters couldn’t vote for a Democrat in the fall. The same fate almost befell Pete Aguilar (D) this spring, but he advanced to the general election and looks good on Tuesday.
    Picking against any Republican incumbents in a year like this might be foolhardy, but we see two as being in deep trouble: Reps. Lee Terry (R, NE-2) and Steve Southerland (R, FL-2).
    Terry’s problems are largely self-inflicted, Southerland’s just partially. Voters in Terry’s Omaha-based district might just be sick of him after so many years and so many gaffes, most recently his insistence on being paid during the shutdown. State Sen. Brad Ashford (D) could be the beneficiary; interestingly, the Democrats had a prized recruit who later backed out of the race, and they very well might win the seat anyway in a bad year for Democrats.
    Southerland, meanwhile, has also made some silly mistakes, but he faces a very strong challenger in Gwen Graham (D), daughter of former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL).
    Of the two, we think Terry is slightly likelier to lose than Southerland, and our sources on both sides of the aisle generally agree. Mitt Romney won both districts in 2012, though, so partisanship could save the incumbents.
    On to the endangered Democratic seats.
    NC-7, the seat now held by retiring Rep. Mike McIntyre (D), is a cinch for Republicans. So too, hypothetically, is UT-4, the seat held by retiring Rep. Jim Matheson (D). But something funny might be going on in Utah: Local pollsters are picking up signs that Mia Love (R), who barely lost to Matheson in 2012, is struggling. She’s still a heavy favorite to win, but we’re leaving a window cracked for Doug Owens (D) to pull off an absolute stunner. Another Democratic Owens, Rep. Bill, is retiring from NY-21, and Elise Stefanik (R) looks likely to win it. That could be just the start of a big night for Republicans in New York: Several Democratic incumbents are in trouble, and the one likeliest to lose is probably Rep. Tim Bishop (D, NY-1), who may finally falter in his bid to retain a quintessential swing seat on Long Island.
    We have long said that Rep. Nick Rahall (D, WV-3) is in deep trouble, and we continue to believe that he is the most endangered Democratic House incumbent in the country. Right behind him is Rep. Bill Enyart (D, IL-12), whose southern Illinois seat is trending GOP.
    It just goes to show what an odd House election this is that Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick (D, AZ-1) and Carol Shea-Porter (D, NH-1) are still very much alive. Both lost as incumbents in 2010 but then won in 2012, both occupy districts that are slightly more Republican than the nation as a whole, and both have long seemed like they’d be among the first Democratic incumbents to fall this year. And yet, some Republicans and Democrats we’ve talked to seem to believe they retain at least narrow leads in the polls. Both have been blessed by weak opposition: former Rep. Frank Guinta (R, NH-1) is unpopular from his previous stint in the House, and Arizona state House Speaker Andy Tobin (R) barely won his late primary.
    That said, we still think that if Republicans are winning more than a half-dozen House seats nationally, they just have to end up winning these seats. But we don’t feel confident about it, and the incumbents are welcome to lord it over us if they hang on.
    Republicans are targeting a number of House seats in California, where turnout will probably be poor because there is no Senate race and Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA) is saving his war chest as he coasts to an easy win. Outside GOP groups are spending all over the state, and they’ve dumped a boatload of money into the district of Rep. Ami Bera (D, CA-7). We think Republicans win at least one Democratic seat in the Golden State, and Bera’s seems the likeliest at this point.
    Democrats hope that some ill-advised comments about Medicare and Social Security — Republicans really need to retire the term “Ponzi scheme” from their vocabulary — will sink Carlo Curbelo (R) in his challenge to Rep. Joe Garcia (D, FL-26), but Garcia has problems of his own.
    Finally, Reps. Brad Schneider (D, IL-10) and Rick Nolan (D, MN- are perhaps the best bets to survive on this list, but strong challengers could very well do them in, even on Democratic turf.
    The Survivors

    This is a longer list: the competitive seats where we believe the incumbent party has a slight edge. Let’s start with the Republicans.
    Despite a likely statewide sweep, Republicans are sweating two open seats in Arkansas: AR-2 and AR-4, held, respectively, by Reps. Tim Griffin (R) and Tom Cotton (R), both of whom are running for statewide office. Of the two, AR-2 is much likelier to flip.
    AR-2 is similar to another quite close Republican-held open seat, WV-2, currently held by future Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R). Both are Republican at the presidential level, but Democrats have much better candidates in each, and both districts are much more open to backing Democratic House candidates than presidential ones. But, given Obama’s high negatives in these districts and states, we just have a really hard time picking any Democrat to win these districts. However, if we ultimately pick the Democrats to win any more Republican-held seats, these are probably the ones.
    In the right year, Democrats will have a fair to good chance to win NJ-3, held by retiring Rep. Jon Runyan (R), and VA-10, held by retiring Rep. Frank Wolf (R). But this just doesn’t seem like that year. Similarly, Rep. Mike Coffman (R, CO-6) will always have to fight hard for reelection, but he should be OK this time. In all these seats, check back in 2016.
    And, finally, there’s indicted Rep. Michael Grimm (R, NY-11). We can’t believe we’re doing it, but we think he hangs on, a potentially embarrassing outcome for the Democratic outside groups who poured millions of largely unanswered dollars into the race — and for Republicans, if the indictment leads to a conviction. Staten Island just seems to love their guy, even if he eventually gets sent up the river.
    The state of Iowa transitions us from the Republican seats to the Democratic seats on this list. If Democrats are struggling to retain the open IA-1, held by Senate candidate Bruce Braley (D), and the seat of Rep. Dave Loebsack (D, IA-2), then how can they be expected to take over the open IA-3, held by retiring Rep. Tom Latham (R), which is less Democratic? Of the four seats in Iowa, we think Democrats are narrowly favored to hold their own seats, IA-1 and IA-2, but that Republicans are positioned to hold on to IA-3 (the other seat, IA-4, is held by Safe Republican Rep. Steve King). Of all these seats, we can most easily imagine switching IA-1 to the Republicans in our final update, which has become an out-and-out dogfight despite being several points more Democratic than the state as a whole.
    After a very close shave against Martha McSally (R) in 2012, Rep. Ron Barber (D, AZ-2) looked like a sure goner in a 2014 rematch. But he’s been resilient, and he probably has a slightly better chance to hold on than Kirkpatrick, the other very vulnerable Arizona House incumbent.
    As noted above, Republicans could have a very good night in California, but as it stands we see several Democratic incumbents hanging tough: Reps. Julia Brownley (CA-26), Scott Peters (CA-52), and Raul Ruiz (CA-36). Of these three, Ruiz is in by far the best position, but we list him here as a precaution in case turnout is very poor, which hypothetically could threaten him. The other two could easily lose, but Brownley is probably in a better position than Peters.
    If they survive, veteran Reps. John Barrow (D, GA-12) and Collin Peterson (D, MN-7) might hold the two most Republican districts held by any Democrat in the next Congress. But if time runs out on either this year, Barrow likely falls before Peterson. And slightly likelier to lose than either of the veterans is freshman Rep. Pete Gallego (D, TX-23), another red district Democrat. If they all hold on, their reward is either retirement on their own terms or another tough race in two years.
    Rep. Ann Kuster (D, NH-2) is not going to win by 23 points, as a Granite State poll showed this week. But she should be OK.
    Democrats and Republicans disagree about the competitiveness of the open MA-6, where Seth Moulton (D) defeated Rep. John Tierney (D) in a primary for the right to face 2012 nominee Richard Tisei (R). A Republican win would register as a mild surprise nonetheless. The same would go for the open ME-2, now held by gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud (D). The NRCC recently waved the white flag and cut its spending in this district despite close public polls.
    Speaking of surprises, it would be a shock to us if former Rep. Charles Djou (R) won back HI-1, being vacated by defeated Senate candidate Colleen Hanabusa (D), given the district’s Democratic leanings, but stranger things have happened and the district was less Democratic on paper before favorite son Barack Obama won the presidency. Less shocking would be a late GOP upset of Rep. Steven Horsford (D, NV-4): Turnout in the Silver State is absolutely dreadful for Democrats, which is putting this seat on the table. Here’s another seat where we can easily imagine flipping our pick depending on what we find out over the weekend.
    Finally, we mentioned that Republicans could have a big night in the Empire State. Reps. Dan Maffei (D, NY-24) and Sean Patrick Maloney (D, NY-1 should hang on, but both races are very, very tight.
    The Favorites

    We’re not going to linger on this category. However, keep an eye on Rep. David Valadao’s (R, CA-21) margin Tuesday night: He should be fine, but he occupies one of the most Democratic districts held by any Republican, and he might be the top target of Democrats to start next cycle, assuming he wins this year. Also, coming on to the list is Rep. Don Young (R, AK-AL), who often makes outrageous comments but might have really struck a critical nerve with his jaw-dropping set of insensitive remarks to a high school audience recently. Alaska’s heated Senate and gubernatorial races will almost definitely be closer than Young’s race, but we just wanted to flag it.
    On the Democratic side, the seat of Rep. Lois Capps (D, CA-24) is a potentially late-breaking seat to watch: If Capps or any of the other Democrats listed in the Likely Democratic column loses, look out.

    As noted before, these picks are not completely final, and we’ll adjust some on Monday.
    If we manage to pick all of these correctly, it isn’t skill, it’s luck: Many were pure coin flips, to tell you the complete truth.
    That said, we think a Republican gain of nine seats is about in the ballpark of what will happen on Election Night. Such a gain would put the GOP at 243 seats, or one more than the 242-seat majority the party won in 2010. This would be Speaker John Boehner’s biggest caucus, which would aid a House leadership team that often struggles to find a bare majority of 218 votes. It would also create an extra buffer for House Republicans to hold on to a majority in future years when the national winds are not blowing as strongly in their direction.
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