Senate Outlook, 12/29: Republican net gain of 5 seats

by: Chris Bowers

Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 11:01

Current 2010 Senate Outlook: Net Republican gain of 5 Seats

Previous forecast, Dec 11: Net Republican gain of 3 seats

Rankings changes:
--Florida moves from "Toss up" to "Solid Republican"
--Kentucky moves from "Toss-up" to "slight lean Republican"
--Missouri moves from "Toss-up" to "slight lean Democrat"
--Ohio moves from "Toss-up" to "slight lean Republican"
--Pennsylvania moves from "Toss-up" to "slight lean Republican"

States with polling changes: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin

Commentary: The improvement in the Republican position comes from refinements to the "toss-up" category.  Rather than all "toss-ups" being given 50-50 chances of going to one party or another, they have been weighted in favor of the part with the slight advantage.  Republicans are now projected to win five of the seven campaigns that were formerly listed as true "toss-ups."  This improves their overall standing to a net gain of five seats.  I believe this more accurately reflects the current political situation.

Specific percentages for each overall partisan result (a 28% chance for 58 Democratic seats, a 30% chance for 57 Democratic seats, a 25% chance for 56 Semocratic seats, etc) will become available in mid-2010, once more polling is available for each campaign, and once most primary campaigns are decided.  The forecast will always use the plurality percentage as the topline result.

Republican-Held Seats
Democratic Pickups: 1 (One of Kentucky, Missouri or Ohio)
State Type Democrat Republican Margin #Polls
MO Open Carnahan Blunt* D 1.5 2
KY D Primary Mongiardo +3.5 2
KY R Primary Paul +11.0 2
KY Open Conway Paul D 1.0 3
KY Open Conway Grayson R 3.7 3
KY Open Mongiardo Paul R 3.7 3
KY Open Mongiardo Grayson R 8.7 3
OH D Primary Fisher +5.5 2
OH R Primary Portman +18.5 2
OH Open Fisher Ganley D 8.0 2
OH Open Brunner Ganley D 5.5 2
OH Open Fisher Portman R 2.5 2
OH Open Brunner Portman R 5.5 2
New Hampshire
NH Open Hodes* Ayotte* R 7.0 2
North Carolina
NC Incumbent Marshall* Burr R 9.0 6
FL R Primary Crist +9.6 5
FL Open Meek* Rubio R 4.5 4
FL Open Meek* Crist R 13.8 4
LA Incumbent Melancon Vitter R 11.0 2
(Others to keep an eye on: Iowa)

Democratic-Held Seats
Democratic Losses: 6 (Colorado, Connecticut, and Nevada, plus three of Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, and Pennsylvania)
State Type Democrat Republican Margin #Polls
CO D Primary Bennet +14.0 1
CO Open Romanoff Norton* R 9.5 2
CO Special Bennet Norton* R 9.0 2
CT R Primary Simmons +4.5 2
CT Incumbent Dodd* Simmons R 9.7 3
CT Incumbent Dodd* McMahon R 2.3 3
NV R Primary Lowden +1.5 2
NV Incumbent Reid Lowden R 7.7 4
NV Incumbent Reid Tarkanian R 4.5 4
NV Incumbent Reid Angle R 4.0 1
IL D Primary Giannoulis +14.0 2
IL Special Hoffman Kirk* R 7.0 2
IL Special Jackson Kirk* R 3.5 2
IL Special Giannoulis Kirk* R 1.3 3
DE Special Biden** Castle R 1.8 4
PA D Primary Sestak Specter R 13.3 3
PA Open Sestak Toomey R 2.6 5
PA Incumbent Specter Toomey R 0.5 6
AR R Primary (straw poll) Baker +2.0 1
AR Incumbent Lincoln Baker R 0.3 4
AR Incumbent Lincoln Coleman D 1.0 4
CA R Primary Fiorina +0.5 2
CA Incumbent Boxer Fiorina D 11.5 2
CA Incumbent Boxer DeVore D 13.5 2
WI Incumbent Feingold Wall D 14.0 1
WI Incumbent Feingold Westlake D 15.0 1
(Others to keep an eye on: New York, North Dakota, Washington)

Chris Bowers :: Senate Outlook, 12/29: Republican net gain of 5 seats

  1. The forecast is entirely based on polling.

  2. For now, use the simple mean of all polls where the majority of interviews were conducted since September 30th (the last 90 days).

  3. When available, at least two polls are used for every campaign, even if the majority of their interviews were conducted  before September 30th.

  4. As the election draws closer, restrict the timeframe for polls included in the averages. During the final six weeks of an election, use the simple mean from the last 15 days.

  5. In campaigns with more than one poll, those where one party is ahead by 6.0 or more are considered "solid." Campaigns between 2.7 and 5.9 are considered "leans." Campaigns within 2.6 or less are considered "toss-ups." These categories are subject to refinement based on continued research into past elections.

  6. "Solid" and "lean" seats are considered pickups, while toss-ups are 50-50 for each party. States with mixed results will be considered 50-50 until the primary election. The overall forecast is the most likely seat change based on the current forecast.  This is also subject to refinement.

  7. Do not include Zogby Interactive polls and Columbus Dispatch polls, due to their horrendous past performance and questionable methodologies.

  8. Do not include Strategic Vision polls, as it is starting to seem likely those are not real polls.

  9. Include campaign-funded polls. Further, if there is more than one poll from a single organization, include all of them.
The basic idea is to cram as many polls with sound methodologies into the averages as possible, and weight them evenly to include more overall data in the sample. Because voter preferences don't really change that much in high-profile elections, I thought this method might produce a more accurate result through logic of regression to the mean. It seems to work pretty well, as my research has shown so far.

This is different from my 2006 and 2008 methodology in that it includes polls from 15 days out from an election, instead of only 8. Further, campaign funded polls, and multiple polls from a single polling firm, are now included. All of these changes were made to include more polls in the averages, since my previous methodology was about 10-20% less accurate than and Since they had already raised the bar so high, and since they will probably improve their methodologies for 2010 even more, it was time for Open Left to step it up.

*= Faces primary, but heavy favorite
**= Not an announced candidate at this time

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West Virginia (0.00 / 0)
I hate to be the one to bring it up, and I don't wish ill on anyone, but seeing as Senator Byrd has been in increasingly deteriorating health, shouldn't we also be thinking about who would get appointed/elected in WV?

I honestly have zero knowledge whatsoever about how that replacing senators works there or the Democratic bench in WV, so I thought I'd just bring it up here.

Dems own West Virginia (4.00 / 1)
While Dems might not do well in Presidential elections in West Virginia, on every other level it is just about the most Democratic state in the entire country.

Dems have a +19% partisan ID advantage. The Governor is a Dem. Dems hold super-supermajorities in both branches of the legislature (see House and Senate).

It will be a looooong time before a Republican wins a Senate seat in West Virginia.

[ Parent ]
n/t (0.00 / 0)
I didn't know this, and admittedly I was confused by their conservative slant in national elections which is all I based my preconceptions on, but I'm glad to hear it.

[ Parent ]
West Virginia is a very interesting case (0.00 / 0)
A poor state that depends heavily on federal subsidies for its livelihood, with a history of supporting unity around the central federal government (it was created in the first place to secede from secessionists).

This should be an in-the-bag, heavily liberal state.  I think the only real reasons why WV even still bothers voting for Republican Presidential candidates (in the last three elections) are cultural issues like guns and race, and the environment/coal.  Neutralize those issues and we should be able to permanently secure the state.

[ Parent ]
Outlook (4.00 / 1)

I really enjoy reading your regular outlooks and appreciate your clear statement of methodology.  I have one nit/request.  Might you add the date of the polls to your chart?  

All polls were conducted (0.00 / 0)
Since September 30th. Says so in the methodology.

[ Parent ]
What of the House? (0.00 / 0)

They only call it class war when we fight back.

[ Parent ]
Not yet (0.00 / 0)
For now, the generic ballot is all I am doing. That will remain the case until either mid-February or late April.

[ Parent ]
At least we won't have Harry whining anymore.. (0.00 / 0)
If we can coerce the remaining Dems to elect a bold new ML instead of another flaming Mod who'll blow the party's majority position, maybe we'll see some progress in 2011.

My hopes are shot personally, so it's up to those remaining few with all their tough talk actually put their votes where their mouth is.


Nationalism is not the same thing as terrorism, and an adversary is not the same thing as an enemy.

more optimistic on PA (4.00 / 1)
I just don't think Toomey could win statewide, regardless of what current polls say.

Ohio is more worrisome. If we blow that opportunity, it will be a damn shame.

Grassley has been running some positive ads in Iowa this fall. I expect him to try to pivot away from the focus on health care reform.

Join the Iowa progressive community at Bleeding Heartland.

Missouri (0.00 / 0)
After spending the better part of a week in Missouri my view is that absent a marked improvement in the economy, still a possibility, that virtually no Democrat could win in 2010.  Of course, it's always a very competitive state and it's still too early to do anything but speculate, I just have a bad feeling about 2010.

IL, PA will be Dem... (4.00 / 2)
...for what it's worth.

IL rethugnicans have this uncanny knack for running a guaranteed loser.

If Joe Sestak takes primary, this outsider can guarantee Nov. victory.

I know things look bad now; but wait til rethugnicans have to assemble an actual message.

"Flipping the Midterms" (4.00 / 1)
from Democratic Strategist

... is there any chance the Dems could actually pick-up seats in congress in November? ...

Political upsets happen, and they are never based on abandoning all hope because of polls. A favorable turn of events can help. More likely, however, they require a critical mass of pro-Democratic activists to embrace the challenge with undaunted determination. Such an activist coalition would include Democratic candidates, their staffs, Democratic party workers, blogosphere and community activists and progressive journalists, ideally working together as much as possible in harmonizing messaging and tapping the power of their formidable echo-chamber. If the GOP's edge has been Party discipline, as seems a fair assessment, the Dems' edge could be a more advanced echo-chamber that now reaches nearly all homes in suburban swing districts ...

The stakes are enormous. Imagine what Democrats could do with a real majority of progressives in their congressional ranks, which could be a small as 3 Senate pick-ups and a dozen House seats. Unlikely, probably - but not totally out of the range of possibility given a little luck and some hard work ...

[Continue reading]:

highest priority in 2020 - gain seats in senate (0.00 / 0)
   A question for Chris Bowers: how can we the netroots win the most seats in the Senate? I do appreciate your forecasting, but I don't want to passively predict the outcome of 2010 races - I want to shape the outcome of 2010 races.
1)   People can talk all they want about "Bush Dogs" and how most Democrats are too far to the Right and so on. But the 2009 health care debates have shown us just how important 60 seats are for us in the Senate. Even the most "reasonable" and "moderate" of Republicans (Olympia Snowe?) have unanimously opposed health care reform. An indirect effect of this fanatical opposition by Republicans has been the fact that Lieberman, Baucus, and others have been able to force Democrats to cave in to their demands. If we had even one seat less, health care reform would have been dead in the water. We cannot afford to lose even one seat in 2010.
2)  On the flip side of that, what if we could gain a seat or two in the Senate next year? What if we could afford to tell that backstabbing pompous ass Lieberman to go ahead and openly join his Republican pals? Wouldn't that be awesome?
3)  So, losing just one Senate seat would be Hell for us, and gaining even one more seat would be Heaven. As far as I am concerned, NOTHING matters more in 2010. I have gotten all sorts of mail and email from the DCCC and the Democratic Governors Association and and so forth, asking me to give them money for 2010. And my answer to all of them is: wait until 2011. In 2010, every dollar that I can spare for politics must go to support Democrats in the Senate only.
  I hope that everyone here at Open Left will agree that every Senate seat counts for more than 5 House seats or even 10 state governorships. If so, then while I appreciate Chris Bower's forecasting, the question we should all be focused on in 2010 is: how do we get the most Senate seats into Democratic hands?

Luke 12:48 "to whom much is given, of him shall much be required". Would Jesus want progressive taxation, or regressive taxation?

[ Parent ]
Anyone know what's going on in the Dem Ohio primary? (0.00 / 0)
Fisher's lead seems small considering that he seems to have the bulk of the establishment support.  

Brunner appears to have problems fundraising but is using strong progressive appeals to raise money from the netroots to make up for the lack of establishment support. (Brunner's campaign is not just using progressive positions, but is doing a good job appealing to progressive values - which we could use a lot more of.)

Given that we seem to be in the "better Democrats" phase, those few primaries where one candidate with less establishment support is pushing one with more establishment support in a more progressive direction are especially important.  I fear that by the time the netroots starts paying much attention to these races, they will already be settled.  

Leaving these decisions to the DSCC or other pols will have bad consequences, even if we were only concerned with the number of Dems in the caucus.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


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