Oct 17 2014

GOP Wave Rising Slowly, But Rising All The Same

Published by at 10:22 am under 2014 Elections,All General Discussions


It has been a month since my last post on the Senate races, and the likelihood of a GOP senate takeover has become nearly certain. In my prior post I noted the GOP had three races in the bag (SD, MT, WV) and three races were on the cusp of being GOP wins: LA, AK, AR.

My argument then is the same I have now: all three Democrat incumbents are polling at sure-to-lose levels.  The rule of thumb I was referencing was recently discussed by Sean Trende who did some actual data mining:

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.

To be clear, my bar was never 50% (or even 48%). Most polls have a Margin of Error (MoE) of 3% so it would be silly to apply this too precisely. My bar was 45% or below.  And Mr. Trende has confirmed this:

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.

I know pollsters are waiting for the challengers to build a big lead or top 50% before tipping a race one way or the other, but incumbents are well known and are not going to see a huge rise in support this close to an election. So I think this hesitancy is unwarranted.

Here are the RCP averages for the incumbents in these three races in September and now in Oct:

  • Alaska [Begich]: September 24th = 41.7%; October 17th = 42.6%
  • Arkansas [Pryor]: September 24th = 41.8%; October 17th = 41.6%
  • Louisiana [Landrieu]: September 24th = 41%; October 17th = 44%

All are below 45%, two are well below.

It is extremely unlikely these incumbents will survive – ss Sean Trende also notes in his piece – due to the fact this close to the election if you are polling 4-5% below the challenger, it is also extremely rare to come from behind and win.  Given these incumbents are showing both indicators, I am confident they will lose and the GOP will pick up the Senate.

The real question is how big is the wave. Since another post last month Colorado has gone from GOP -0.6 to +3.6, with the incumbent polling at 41.6%. So that would be the 7th pickup for the GOP.  In NC, incumbent Senator Hagan was polling at 45.1% with a  4.5% lead over her challenger.  Today she is at 44.8% with only a 1,4% margin.  She is clearly in the incumbent danger zone. That would be pick up 8. Iowa is trending towards the GOP as well, which is pick up 9.

I do not see the GOP losing any seats because the polls are all trending the GOP’s way.  But even if there is a risk to lose 1 seat, the GOP is sitting at 8-9 seat pick up for the GOP.  A healthy cushion for control of the senate.

What I am watching is NH and VA.  The NH race has also trended towards the GOP recently and is now a toss up. VA is also moving, but may not move far enough, fast enough to be a GOP pick up. One of these two races will represent the high-water mark for the 2014 election wave. That much I am sure of.

The last trend to watch is how the President’s Party candidates end up with a percentage of the vote near the President’s support in the polls for that state. If this kicks in over the next 3 weeks, the wave will be high.


Update: Seeing similar conclusions over at Huffingtonpost:

What may be of more concern to Democrats is the way these shifts have occurred. Since early September, our model’s estimates show the Republican share of the vote in these six battleground states growing by 2 percentage points (from 45.2 to 47.3 percent), while the Democrats share of the vote has remained essentially even (nudging up from 44.6 to 44.8 percent).

That pattern matches a theory offered in September by RealClearPolitics election analyst Sean Trende. Trende noted that in recent elections that the support for incumbent Senators appears capped by the President’s approval rating in their state …

9 responses so far

9 Responses to “GOP Wave Rising Slowly, But Rising All The Same”

  1. MarkN says:

    I wouldn’t call it a wave. Just the typical six year itch with a President who’s approval rating is in the low 40s.

    The last two weeks we should see more erosion in all Democratic incumbents and it happens quickly. I’m talking imcumbents in MN, IL, NJ, NM, and NH. Unless Obama can magically get his approval rating up into the high 40s voters will take out their frustrations on his party.

    That is because people who voted for Romney were very disappointed that he lost and this year is their only chance at revenge. So all the energy is with people who hate the president and wanted him to one term only. Because his approval rating is in the low 40s, there is no counterweight of passion for voters who think his the best thing since sliced bread. If that were the case his approval rating would be over 50% and in the low 50s.

  2. jan says:

    This election is like the current stockmarket — not a sure thing, IMO. Even though the R’s have the advantage this election cycle, I’ve been surprised at how constant the polling has been for the contested dem seats. With all that’s going wrong with liberal dometic policies, it’s leaders, the mess in the world, one would think there would be wide gaps between the R & D candidates. But, there isn’t. Even Cotton has struggled to get the best of his opponent.

    Maybe, as we get closer to voting day, more people will be inclined for a change. However, the dem ground game, their aggressive, well-organized GOTV, with probably some walking around money, free rides to polling places, and wins to extend early voting as well as circumvent Voter ID laws, there continue to be obstacles in the road to an R victory.

  3. MarkN says:

    The polls have had problems with the response rate, especially robocall polls. The turnout model varies widely between the pollsters that further clouds the issue.

    Cotton right now has a four point lead in the averages, with Pryor stuck at 41-42%. That still leaves double digit late deciders. I mentioned above with Obama so low in approval they will break for Cotton.

    Many on the GOP side are jaded from 2012 but 2012 was the first year a President has won re-election with less popular and electoral vote since 1916. (1948 doesn’t count). I understand your fraud concerns but the democrats will need to defraud a lot of elections in GOP states.

  4. A_Nonny_Mouse says:

    I, too, think there should be a wider gap between R’s and D’s.

    Hopefully there are “enough” voters who currently have no enthusiasm for the GOP-establishment-approved RINO . . . but at crunch-time they’ll ultimately decide that allowing the D’s to win AGAIN would be even worse for the country.

    (But if the GOP-e spends the next two years being as unresponsive to its base as it has been since the 2010 elections, they’ll wind up handing 2016 back to the Dems for sure…)

  5. Rick C says:

    The Republican wave may be rising, but so is the level of Democratic cheating. My fear is they will be able to cheat enough to blunt the actual elections.

  6. jan says:

    Rick, your concerns are only supported by the new laws in CO which are sending ballots to everyone, whether asked for or not, creating a fertile petri dish for fraudulent voting.

    This is what the dems have perfected — voter manipulation/fraud and character assassination of their opponents. Couple this with constituencies mainly voting their own self interest, oblivious to long term ramifications or factual content, you have a perfect storm on pulling out an election, even in the midst of poor liberal policies and low polling numbers.

  7. oneal lane says:

    Does the election matter. The course of the nation is being set without legislation. Millions of illegal (democrats) immigrants, Gay marriage, and Obama-care all “installed” against the will of the people.

    Its depressing.

  8. jan says:

    I agree, oneal, that the state of affairs in this country is depressing. However, elections still matter. For instance, if nothing else happens, just getting the Senate out of Harry Reids hands will allow legislation to flow from the House, be introduced and debated by the Senate, allowing the optics of obstructionism to be owned by the WH. Also, a rejuggling of ideology in government can act as a doorstop to what has been runaway liberalism during the last 6 years.

  9. gwood says:

    Jan says….

    “For instance, if nothing else happens, just getting the Senate out of Harry Reids hands will allow legislation to flow from the House, be introduced and debated by the Senate, allowing the optics of obstructionism to be owned by the WH. ”

    And I so agree.

    I am not as pessimistic as most who seem to be saying things will get worse just because Obama will attempt to utilize more executive power to get what he wants.

    There are five or six important issues in which Obama wants to go against at least a plurality of the people. I think Keystone, immigration, energy policies in general, foreign policies, terrorism, health care, and even taxes fit this description.

    They can put legislation ON HIS DESK, instead of having them languish in Harry Reid’s Senate. Then, as you say, Jan, he’s the obstructionist, and he’ll be obstructing things that a majority of Americans want to see addressed.