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Sunday, June 25, 2017
HomeElectionsElection Projections2014 Senate Map Predictions: Ratings And Analysis

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LEGEND: SAFE DEM | LIKELY DEM | LEANS DEM | TOSS-UP | LEANS GOP | LIKELY GOP | SAFE GOP

(UPDATE: FINAL 2014 SENATE PREDICTIONS AVAILABLE NOW – Though feel free to learn more about the model at PPD and our ratings below.)

(UPDATE: FINAL 2014 SENATE ELECTION RESULTS AVAILABLE NOW – Hint: We missed one call, and it went for a Republican. We should’ve never changed our minds. But that’s how it works sometimes.)

Above is the 2014 Senate map, which includes individual senate races and their ratings determined by People’s Pundit Daily Senior Editor and Political Analyst, Richard D. Baris. Polling is provided when available, but polling in and of itself is not enough to determine a credible race rating.

But before we get into the model and ratings, be sure to sign up for our FREE newsletter in order to be notified of rating changes and receive notifications of our new “expanded analysis” articles, which provide in-depth analysis and commentary.

Race ratings for our 2014 Senate Map Predictions are determined by a comprehensive model that includes many variables, including polling (weighted to value based on pollster accuracy), state demographics and political leanings (including Partisan Voting Index (PVI), candidate ideology vs. state and party ID/registration), candidate recruitment and strength, GOTV and campaign organization, national political sentiment, the ever-important variables of the economy (state and national) and presidential approval rating (state and national).

It is worth noting, however, that the importance of the presidential approval rating variable in Senate race outcomes cannot be understate. Unlike gubernatorial elections, where historically “All politics really is local,” in Senate elections from 1980 to 2012, the relationship between the president’s approval rating — both nationwide and in the individual states — is quite strong.

(View Presidential Approval Ratings — Click Here)

So, if you see polling in our expanded analysis articles or below the table that does not necessarily comport with the rating assigned, then these variables would be the reason why. While we assign the following ratings to races — Toss-Up, Leans, Likely and Safe — they represent actual numerical values that reflect a probability or likelihood of outcome. On the election projection model, a race that scores a likelihood from 45 – 55 percent is assigned a “Toss-Up” rating; 56 to 64 percent is assigned a “Leans” ratings; 65 to 84 percent is assigned a “Likely” rating; 85 to 100 percent is assigned a “Safe” rating.

For example, in Arkansas, Pryor is not lagging behind in polling enough to consider the race “Likely Republican,” but the demographics of the state have changed since Pryor first ran for election, and when we examine the variables in the model at PeoplesPunditDaily.com, i.e. PVI relationships versus past vote totals, demographics, presidential approval and so on, a trend in the state’s voting behavior becomes apparent.

In the southern region of the state – which was the real key to Pryor’s past victories, as he outperformed Democrats nationwide in the region — has undergone a generational shift that favors Cotton. Name recognition from being his father’s son has helped Pryor outperform Democrats in past cycles, but he will likely not be able to rely on that name advantage now since most of those voters will be around 89 years-old; the high end of an age bloc, by the way, which is now heavily Republican. This is particularly true with an opponent like Tom Cotton, who represents the large southern swing district and, despite Pryor’s efforts, is not seen by Arkansas voters as being on the “extreme” right.

The PVI (Partisan Voting Index) was R+9 in the state when now-Senator Boozman defeated incumbent Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln by nearly 21 points. In 2014, PVI for the state is estimated to be R+14. Coupled with historical midterm electorate composition, which will likely result in fewer Democratic voters than during a presidential cycle, Republican Rep. Tom Cotton has a 70 percent chance of defeating incumbent Democrat Senator Mark Pryor. (You can read the entire Arkansas analysis here).

(View Generic Congressional Ballot — Click Here)

Analysis And Overview Of 2014 Senate Map Predictions And National Political Landscape

(Note: Following a brief overview, state-by-state analysis is available below.)

Democrats currently hold a 55 — 45 majority in the U.S. Senate. Republicans need a net gain of 6 seats to win control of the Senate. National Journal’s survey of Washington political insiders shows most Republicans and a near-majority of Democrats are predicting a Republican Senate majority. These insiders didn’t predict Republican takeovers in 2006 and 2010 at this point in those election cycles.

The political landscape is one in which Democrats will once again be defending many more Senate seats than Republicans, with 20 Democratic seats up compared to 14 for Republicans (following the unexpected early retirement of Senator Tom Colburn of Oklahoma). As far as state dynamics, 7 Democratic-held seats are up in red (or purple) states carried by Mitt Romney, while another 7 are from swing states. In 3 Romney states — Montana (Safe Republican), West Virginia (Safe Republican), South Dakota (Safe Republican) — Democratic incumbents are retiring.

After the government shutdown Democrats held a 47.2 – 41.1 percent advantage on the PeoplesPunditDaily.com average of generic ballot polling. Since the failed ObamaCare rollout, as well as an infamous host of broken promises associated with the law, Republicans have surged, now enjoying a better position than they did at this point in 2010, on a survey that traditionally favors Democrats more than actual Election Day results. The Democratic senators who supported ObamaCare will not be able to rely upon the Obama GOTV machine, nor will they have a good answer for their vote, which was opposed by their constituencies.

As previously stated, PeoplesPunditDaily.com uses a model that includes but is not limited to PVI trends, which can be compared below in the analysis table. Generally speaking, in 2010, Republican candidates won Democrat-held Senate seats in states where the PVI was more Republican than D+2, with a roughly 85 percent chance of success. In turn, generally speaking, Republicans lost races for Democrat-held Senate seats in which the PVI was less Republican.

If we examine vulnerable Republican seats in states where the PVI stood somewhere between D+2 and R+4, Republicans held them all. When we get into state-by-state analysis, then the importance of including a variable for candidate recruitment really shows, because we see just how many seats according to this one variable in PPD’s model should in fact be Republican today, such as Colorado (2010), Delaware (2010), Nevada (2010), Indiana (2012) and Missouri 2012).

Nevertheless, because the 2008 election was a wave election for the Democratic Party, in 2014 the party will have a ton of exposure, or seats that would otherwise be Republican anyway (or at least far more competitive). The map has expanded considerably in favor of the Republican Party, with Senate elections in states like Colorado, New Hampshire, Iowa and Virginia, all moving toward the right.

Even if Democrats ultimately hold their seats in Michigan, Iowa and Virginia, their money and resources will be further stretched defending them, which will ease the burden on Republican war chests in more conservative states the party needs to retake the Senate, such as Arkansas, North Carolina, Louisiana and Alaska.

If Democrats are forced to spend precious resources to defend more solidly blue states, they will have to shift their resources away from races in far “redder” states. Further, the 2014 Senate Map is about as red as the GOP could have asked for in a “six-year itch” election cycle, when the president’s party historically incurs losses. In modern election cycles, again from 1980 to 2012, on average that six-year loss has been far more significant.

A lot can happen before Election Day 2014, as a week in politics can change the landscape dramatically. But, for now, the Republican Party is favored to win control of the U.S. Senate, with a likely net gain of 6 — 8 seats.

(Note: Click on state or race rating [bold] for expanded analysis when available, as expanded analysis articles will be added frequently and timely. Otherwise, below the table, brief state-by-state analysis is available.)

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Brief State-By-State Analysis For Senate Races Not Yet On Expanded Table

DELAWARE

PPD Rating — SAFE DEMOCRAT

Analysis

Christine O’Donnell (R) is considering another run in 2014. Senator Chris Coons (D) is looking like he will be all good.

 

 

HAWAII 

PPD Rating — LIKELY DEMOCRAT

Analysis

The Aloha State will be the Blue version of Red Georgia, featuring a highly competitive Democratic contest. Appointed by Governor Neil Abercrombie to replace the late Senator Daniel Inouye, Sen. Brian Schatz will have to defend against a primary challenge from Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who had also hoped to be appointed to the seat at the end of last year. Hanabusa, who according to reports was Inouye’s preferred replacement, gained the endorsement of the powerful women’s group EMILY’s List after declaring her candidacy, and she currently has Inouye’s widow raising money for her.

An October robo-poll showed the race neck and neck, as did a poll this summer—and a poll from EMILY’s List over the summer showed the congresswoman ahead. But Schatz has now pulled ahead in fundraising during the third quarter, bringing in $678,000 to Hanabusa’s $441,000, in large part due to the fact Schatz has a very strong labor backing.

Also, Hanabusa has a weak electoral track record in the House, with election day support that is nothing to boast about, which makes Schatz an early favorite in the contest.

As for the Republican Party in Blue Hawaii, ex-Rep. Charles Djou has been thrown around as a possible candidate, but prospective talent is light for Republicans in the very Democratic state.

Campbell Cavasso, a former state representative and Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in both 2004 and 2010, is the only declared candidate. In 2010, he was crushed by Inouye 75 – 22 percent. It is nearly identical to the margin he was defeated by in 2004.

 

IDAHO 

PPD Rating SAFE REPUBLICAN

Analysis

Senator Jim Risch (R) has no opponent thus far, for a reason, and it wouldn’t matter if he did.

 

ILLINOIS 

PPD Rating SAFE DEMOCRAT

Analysis

Senator Dick Durbin (D) made it clear that he would seek reelection, and that’s the end of that.

 

MAINE

PPD Rating — SAFE REPUBLICAN

Analysis

One day I suspect that Republicans will have to pay the piper for this seat, but that say is not today.

In 2008, which was a Democratic wave election, Republican incumbent Senator Susan Collins demonstrated that the Democrats never really had a chance. Thus, as long as she runs – which she has given no indication otherwise – Senator Susan Collins is unbeatable.

Polling

Poll Date Sample Collins (R) Bellows (D) Spread
PPP (D) 11/8 – 11/11 964 RV 59 20 Collins +39

 

MASSACHUSETTS 

PPD Rating — SAFE DEMOCRAT

Analysis

Senator-elect Ed Markey (D) will not have to wait long to see who wants to challenge him in 2014 in the seat’s regular election, and it very well may again be Gabriel Gomez. It became known during the special election campaign that Markey is not a particularly strong statewide candidate, however, he has a “D” next to his name in a very Blue Democratic state.

 

MINNESOTA

PPD Rating LEANS DEMOCRAT

Analysis

Despite barely defeating Senator Norm Coleman by a razor thin voter fraud margin, and a prolonged fraudulent recount in 2008, incumbent Democratic Sen. Al Franken was not a particularly vulnerable incumbent. In fact, there were rumors that Franken was not considered a top target by the national GOP. National media bias and raising a ton of money had helped to firm up his reelection bid. However, if the state GOP could pull their act together, then there could be a real problem for Franken amid the failed rollout and unpopular revelations surrounding ObamaCare.

Despite the typical blowout at the presidential level, Mitt Romney only lost Minnesota in by 7.69 percent, without making a real play for the state and frequent visits by the former president — William Jefferson Clinton — suring up the state to back up David Axelrod’s “mustache” bet. No doubt, as it has become clear from the investigation, the Democrats needed a massive voter fraud effort to win this seat in 2008.

However, the problem for Republicans is a familiar one.

No top-tier challenger appears interested in challenging the professional jokester – or, at least they didn’t before the failed ObamaCare rollout. Now, the joke could be on the former Saturday Night Live comedian. Republican businessman Mike McFadden and Republican state Rep. Jim Abeler are the only two candidates in the GOP’s corner, with state Sen. Julianne Ortman potentially debating a bid. However, if the GOP cannot get its act together soon, then Franken will soon appear to be the favorite to win a second term.

Though, unlike some states where demographics are hurting Republican candidates, a loss in a favorable environment will be a testament to the failure of the Republican Party in a state that is 86.9 percent white. Because both changing demographics and national toxicity of ObamaCare actually favor the GOP slightly, it is too early to call this a “Likely Democrat” seat. It may rapidly change if the Republicans cannot recruit a viable candidate, but for now they have a chance to make this seat competitive.

 

NEBRASKA

PPD Rating — LIKELY REPUBLICAN

Analysis

The surprising retirement of Sen. Mike Johanns [R] and the delayed decision by Gov. Dave Heineman (R) not to run for the seat put this race on hold. Shane Osborn [R], an ex-Navy pilot who served a single term as state treasurer from 2007 to 2011, is already in the race. The state’s three Republican U.S. House members – Jeff Fortenberry, Adrian Smith and Lee Terry – all are unlikely to run, but that is not written in stone. State Treasurer Don Stenberg [R], could make yet another run for Senate, as could state Attorney General Jon Bruning [R], although Bruning indicated earlier this year that he would like to stay on as AG (Bruning and Stenberg lost the 2012 Republican Senate primary to now-Sen. Deb Fischer).

There are also several non-career politician possibilities, including businessman Pete Ricketts [R], who got dismantled by then-Senator Ben Nelson (D) in 2006, and Ben Sasse [R], president of Midland University and a George W. Bush administration veteran.

While Republicans could have yet another crowded field in the primary, Democrats have not settled on a candidate either. Former Lt. Gov. Kim Robak and Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler are frequently considered, but neither seems likely to run. Because of the uncertainty on both sides, we can only rely on the state’s political leanings. In the national political environment we are in, which has went from bad to worse for the Democrats, I would be hard-pressed to describe a scenario in which a Democrat could win.

 

NEW MEXICO

PPD Rating — LIKELY DEMOCRAT

Analysis

The Land of Enchantment’s left turn in its presidential politics, which is due to the 40 percent plus Hispanic vote share, has extended to its other federal races, where Sen. Tom Udall (D) appeared to be in good shape for reelection. This race was previously rated “Safe Democrat,” but the failed ObamaCare rollout has struck again. Polling, which wasn’t even close prior, has tightened up a bit.

 

OREGON

PPD Rating — LIKELY DEMOCRAT

Analysis

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) is in much the same position as Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) — he could lose under the precise set of right circumstances, but none of those circumstances have yet developed. The lack of a Republican bench in Oregon — Rep. Greg Walden, the only Republican in the state’s congressional delegation, isn’t running for higher office — works to Merkley’s advantage. So even if Merkley has the occasional embarrassing moment, it doesn’t look like there’s a Republican who can take advantage.

(UPDATE: Republicans have significantly expanded the map since the original rating, which has prompted us to put this race on a watch and opine once more. You can view that here.)

 

RHODE ISLAND

PPD Rating — SAFE DEMOCRAT

Analysis

Again, it’s Rhide Island. Senator Jack Reed (D) wins.

 

SOUTH CAROLINA (Regular Election)

PPD Rating — SAFE REPUBLICAN

  • Primary Election — Solid Graham

Analysis

As a member of the Senate Gang of Eight on immigration reform, as well as refusing to sign the pledge to Defund ObamaCare or even oppose the cloture vote, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was asking for a primary challenge next year. Now, he is threatening to block all of the president’s appointments until he gains access to the Benghazi attack survivors. Who are these potential challengers, and will they actually have a shot? According to Republican polling, not yet, but here they are.

State Sen. Lee Bright, Easley businessman Richard Cash, Orangeburg attorney Bill Connor, and Charleston PR executive and first female graduate of The Citadel, Nancy Mace, are all announced challengers to Lindsey Graham.

Worth noting, those polled by Gravis preferred former senator-turned Heritage President Jim DeMint to Senator Graham by a 47 percent to 36 percent. There are some other potential danger signs for the incumbent, as a small plurality said they support a Tea Party challenge to Graham.

Whoever it is will have a heck of a fight on their hands with Lindsey Graham. Why is it that the Palmetto State’s U.S. House representatives, featuring some members closely aligned with the Tea Party (Mick Mulvaney, Jeff Duncan and Trey Gowdy, all of whom were first elected in 2010), have stayed out of this race? Senator Graham has been here before.

Still, People’s Pundit Daily (PPD) sees incumbent Senator Lindsey Graham as the clear favorite in the Republican primary. A recent poll from Gravis Marketing had Senator Graham easily beating each of the candidates with 54 percent of the vote. But there was a significant bloc of undecided voters representing more than 20 percent of the Republican primary electorate.

However, the Tea Party-backed state Sen. Lee Bright, reportedly has at least $1.4 million in debt from a failed trucking business, which he blames on the policies of the federal government. In most surveys Bright was fairing better than other candidates.

On the Democratic side, businessman Jay Stamper is in the race, but the Republicans would have to nominate a really terrible candidate – like a Todd Akin – to give the Democrats any glimmer of hope here.

Poll Date Sample Graham Bright Mace Cash Spread
Harper (R) 10/27 – 10/28 379 LV 51 15 4 4 Graham +36
Landmark/Rosetta Stone 8/25 – 8/25 500 LV 42 13 10 7 Graham +29

 

SOUTH CAROLINA (Special Election)

PPD Rating — SAFE REPUBLICAN

Analysis

While Graham is facing 4 primary challengers, appointed Republican Senator Tim Scott is not in any trouble. And that’s what happens when you are viewed as a politician who keeps your word. Scott is a strong ally of the conservative South Carolina House delegation members, such as Reps. Duncan, Gowdy and Mulvaney, which means he will have no Tea Party problems.

Provided Scott wins in 2014, he will have to run again for a full term in 2016.

 

SOUTH DAKOTA

PPD Rating — SAFE REPUBLICAN

Analysis

The retirement of Sen. Tim Johnson (D) had Democrats focused on two candidates: ex-Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson, the son of the senator. Unfortunately for them, however, both of them declined to run, leaving Rick Weiland (D), a former unsuccessful House candidate who is close to former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Daschle’s backing of Weiland apparently chapped the pants of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D), who preferred the more conservative (and probably more electable) Sandlin.

Weiland starts as a far off to ex-Governor Mike Rounds (R), who is likely to become the Republican nominee after Rep. Kristi Noem (R), the at-large representative who defeated Sandlin in 2010, decided against a run. I believe that Noem would have been the stronger candidate but Rounds now has upwards of a 14-point lead in polling. The only wildcard in this race could be former South Dakota Senator Larry Pressler, a registered Republican, who said that there is a 70 percent chance he will run as an independent for his old seat next year. Pressler spent 22 years in Washington before Senator Tim Johnson defeated him in 1996.

Rounds might have primary trouble, but as far as the state’s politics are concerned, he looks like a good bet to be in Washington come 2015.

 

TENNESSEE

PPD Rating — SAFE REPUBLICAN

Analysis

Conservative groups have decided that Tennessee deserves better, and have been hunting far and wide for a primary challenger to Senator Lamar Alexander ® – they’ve got a website set up to prove it, BeatLamar.com, that will serve to support an eventual challenger – but so far no one of stature has stepped forward into the race. Stay tuned; Alexander is another Republican who supported the Hoeven-Corker immigration amendment. Democrats don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell against Alexander.

 

TEXAS

PPD Rating — SAFE REPUBLICAN

  • Primary — Likely Cornyn

Analysis

Incumbent Republicans Sen. John Cornyn appeared to be in big trouble. A Gravis Marketing poll conducted for Human Events found Cornyn down by 13 percent against a generic Tea Party challenger. After seeing his border security amendment fail to be included in the big immigration reform bill, he voted “Nay” on the legislation along with his fellow Texas colleague. However, his refusal to stand with Ted Cruz to defund ObamaCare hurt him badly among Texas Republicans (you can read my analysis further on this poll by clicking here).

Nevertheless, challenger Steve Stockman, who is still an unknown at this point, announced December 9, 2013. But in the latest Gravis Marketing poll, Stockman was gaining only modestly on the incumbent, for now appearing to be unable to harness previous discontent with the incumbent. It is unclear whether or not he could keep that momentum going, let alone build on it enough to pull ahead. The problem Stockman seems to rest with voters who identify themselves as “very conservatives,” among which Cornyn holds a 12.3-point advantage over Stockman (46.2 to 33.9 percent).

Though Cornyn is polling under 50 percent, his approval has increased back to 49 percent.

Cornyn also got a little negative publicity recently — which he needed like another hole in his head — when National Journal reported that he is collecting benefits from three different public pensions – a practice commonly known as “double-dipping,” or rather in his case, triple-dipping. That is exactly the type of “insider” story that Stockman could run with, in fact, all the way to Washington. Either way…