Two new Senate polls from the New York Times and Siena College this week show that Democrats in two traditionally conservative states – Alaska and South Carolina – are pushing for an advantage as November 3rd ends.
In Alaska, the Times / Siena poll found that independent Senate candidate Al Gross, who is running as a Democratic candidate, is about 8 percentage points behind incumbent Republican Senator Dan Sullivan, with third-party candidate John Howe supporting 10 percent.
In South Carolina, polls in Siena found that Senate Justice Chairman Lindsey Graham continues to face a far closer race than expected. Democrat Jaime Harrison is just 6 percentage points behind his rival and is riding a wave of momentum. In comparison, Graham won re-election in 2014 by more than 15 percentage points.
Although Republican incumbents in Alaska and South Carolina are still favorites, challengers Gross and Harrison have seen a huge inflow of campaign money in the past few weeks – Harrison set a record of $ 57 million in a single quarter. Progress for Progress’s Sean McElwee recently told Vox’s Matthew Yglesias that it’s not too late for campaigns to use big cash injections – meaning these huge fundraising drives could affect the bottom line of any race. And other recent polls show much closer races in both states.
A survey by Harstad Strategic Research in Alaska published this week found that Gross Sullivan leads by 1 percentage point, although this is well within the 4 percentage point margin of error. A poll conducted just before the Harstad, Alaska Survey Research poll, September 25 through October 4, found that Sullivan is 4 percentage points ahead.
That close coordination is reflected in expert predictions of the outcome in the state: On Tuesday, Cook Political Report shifted its race prospects for the Alaska Senate from Likely R to Lean R.
And J. Miles Coleman, Associate Editor at Sabatos Kristallkugel, told Ella Nilsen of Vox in August: "I wouldn't sleep if I ran in the Senate."
Cook now also rates South Carolina as a direct mistake, and Data for Progress found that Harrison was 2 percentage points ahead of Graham in early October – again, within the poll's 3.5 percent margin of error. A Quinnipiac University poll in late September found Harrison and Graham were on an equal footing, while a CBS News poll during the same period found Graham was 1 percentage point ahead.
That every Democratic candidate is even remotely close to his Republican rival with just 17 days to go. The results of either election will not necessarily shake the election results, but the fact that Alaska and South Carolina are in the picture for Democrats underscores how broad the Democratic path has become to a potential Senate majority.
The democratic chances of a majority in the Senate are good
To get a majority, the Democrats must take four seats in a chamber currently controlled by the GOP, 53 to 47 seats (including the independent Sens. Bernie Sanders and Angus King, who will meet with the Democrats).
The work of pollsters and forecasters suggests that a Democratic majority in 2021 is an increasingly realistic outcome: According to the Senate forecast from FiveThirtyEight, Democrats in Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maine, and North Carolina will be directly favored over Republican incumbents. Montana and Kansas – alongside Alaska and South Carolina – could also be in play.
Overall, Cook Political Report's Jessica Taylor says Democrats could take up to seven seats if everything breaks their way on November 3rd.
In some states, this optimism is reflected in spending.
In Colorado, for example, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is reducing its investment in incumbent Republican Senator Cory Gardner. According to the Denver Post, the group spent less than $ 150,000 in the state in the first half of October, compared to millions in Iowa, Montana, and elsewhere.
And a Democratic PAC is moving in Colorado too – for the opposite reason. That group, Senate Majority PAC, is reportedly so confident that Democratic Senate candidate John Hickenlooper is at the helm by a comfortable double-digit margin, shifting state funds to other races.
There are a few problem areas for Democrats, however. In Alabama, where Democratic Senator Doug Jones won an unlikely victory over Republican Roy Moore in 2018, Republicans are preferred to oust the Democratic incumbent. And the race in Michigan, in which Democratic Senator Gary Peters stands for re-election, is also becoming a competitive business.
Joe Biden's agenda could be based on a majority in the Democratic Senate
While the ousting of President Donald Trump is a top priority for the Democrats, Senate scrutiny could prove almost as important by 2020.
Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, who is expected to be re-elected in November, honors his Senate title of "Grim Reaper". And if Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden takes office in January and McConnell is still the majority leader, the marquee's Democratic priorities – like health care, climate change, and voting rights – will likely be dead upon arrival.
The good news for Democrats is that Gross and Harrison aren't the only Democratic candidates swimming in the money. From July 1 to the end of September, Democratic fundraising platform ActBlue processed $ 1.5 billion in donations to ensure that the party's candidate list was very well funded over the last three weeks of the race.
These recent election and fundraising successes have alarmed some Republicans: Republican pollster David Flaherty told the Denver Post this week that "The train wreck and the president's implosion will overthrow an historic number of other Republican candidates, and if you don't, Believe that then you have your head in the sand. “And Texas Senator Ted Cruz awakened the specter of a“ bloodbath the size of Watergate ”last Friday for his party on CNBC.
As always, polls can be short-lived – they're a snapshot, not a forecast, of how the race will play out on election day. Things can suddenly change. But there isn't much time left in the running, and the current state of affairs leaves many Democrats with confidence about their chances of winning the Senate majority.
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