Eight days before Election Day, the overall midterms picture is looking up for Republicans. With early voting underway in most states, it seems that a Republican wave of undetermined size is approaching, putting the Senate into play and very likely delivering the House to the GOP. But in weather and in politics, forecasts are often wrong, and there are multiple unknown factors to take into account.
Here’s what the polls are telling us today:
Is Patty Murray legit in trouble?
All year long, Republicans trying to spin a giant national landslide have been talking up a potential upset of five-term incumbent Senator Patty Murray. This is despite the fact that Murray won 54 percent in the August 2 nonpartisan top-two primary, usually a sure sign of a general-election victory. Soon after that result, the GOP began spending money attacking Murray, and Republican nominee Tiffany Smiley (best known as an advocate for severely wounded veterans) started putting up impressive fundraising numbers of her own. A Trafalgar Group survey in late September showing Murray below 50 percent and only leading Smiley by two points raised eyebrows, but was mostly dismissed as a typically pro-GOP outlier.
Now the race is generally considered competitive, though only Trafalgar (which just published a new poll showing Murray up 49-48) has it even. The most recent competing data is from the poorly credentialed Oregon robo-pollster Triton, and showed Murray up by just over five points and just over 50 percent. With Republicans threatening to win multiple Democratic-held House districts in Washington and Oregon, along with Oregon’s gubernatorial race, the midterms are shaping up as a possible northwestern blue-state nightmare for Democrats. The Republican confidence that this is a real race seems to be more of a GOP strategic feint than something Democrat should panic over. Either way, we won’t know a lot on Election Night, since Washington is an all-mail-ballot state where ballots postmarked by Election Day will count no matter when they are received.
Some Democratic Senate comfort from Times-Siena
The New York Times–Siena College polling combine, which has more often than not provided discouraging words for Democrats in this cycle, released its final polls for four crucial Senate races, and the picture is relatively bright (or at least not dark) for Democrats. Times-Siena shows incumbent Mark Kelly of Arizona and open-seat nominee John Fetterman of Pennsylvania both leading by margins outside the poll’s margin of error (Kelly leading Blake Masters 51-45 and Fetterman leading Mehmet Oz 49-44). Kelly is the only candidate in either of these races with a net-positive favorability rating according to these polls, at 47-45. Masters is at 38-47; Fetterman is at 44-47; and Oz is at 38-50.
Times-Siena has closer results in two other red-hot battleground-state Senate races with Nevada’s incumbent Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto dead even with Adam Laxalt at 47 percent and Georgia’s incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock leading Herschel Walker 49-46.
As befits the partisan slugfest underway in Nevada, the favorability rating of both Cortez Masto and Laxalt is tied at a not-so-good 39 percent in the Times-Siena poll, barely above each candidate’s “very unfavorable” number (36 percent for the Democrat, 32 percent for the Republican). Cortez Masto leads among her fellow Latinos, but only by 51-43.
The Georgia race looks to have settled down into a battle between party affiliation and personal popularity. Warnock’s favorability ratio is 49-45, and Walker’s is 39-54; the latter number is a bit shocking given the positive celebrity the former football legend brought into the race. And Walker is underperforming among registered Republicans. He is also failing to make any sort of dent in Warnock’s Black support, winning only 6 percent of Black voters in the Times-Siena sample.
The final pre-election poll from the University of Georgia–Atlanta Journal-Constitution is less comforting for Warnock. It shows Walker leading 46-45, though the Republican is still bleeding support from voters backing GOP governor Brian Kemp (who leads Stacey Abrams 51-44 in the same poll). But perhaps the most interesting finding in the AJC poll is that 5 percent of voters (including a significant number of those backing Kemp in the governor’s race) intend to vote for Libertarian Chase Oliver. Both the Times-Siena and AJC surveys suggest that neither candidate is currently on track to win a majority, which would mean a December general-election runoff in which this Senate seat — and perhaps control of the U.S. Senate — is on the line.
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