November 4, 2014
Track the 2014 Races
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2014 Alaska Senate Race
Monday, September 15, 2014
|This article was published Tuesday, September 9 on PJMedia.com.
How primary results have affected the parties' general election prospects.
Republicans enjoyed a hurricane force wind at their backs going into the 2010 elections. On Election Day, GOP candidates running for seats in the House realized the full potential of the wave they were riding by earning a massive and historic 63-seat net gain. However, Republican candidates vying for their place in the Senate did not. Sure, they did well, picking up six seats in the upper chamber, but they missed out on several additional opportunities.
Amy Walter, National Editor for CookPolitical.com, points out a major reason why. She writes:
|In 2010, in what was a "wave year" just two of the seven toss-up races went to Republicans, though public polling predicted that four of those seven (57 percent) would flip to the GOP. Terrible GOP candidates like Christine O'Donnell, Sharron Angle, and Ken Buck were the real culprits in the GOP underperformance that year.
Party nominees matter - even in wave elections. So, with the primary season drawing to a close, let's take a look at the candidates from each party who made it past the qualifying round and evaluate how those choices impact their party's prospects for success in Senate and gubernatorial elections this November.
Thirty-six Senate seats are up for grabs this year. Twenty-three of them are non-competitive races which the incumbent party is very likely to retain. The remaining thirteen seats are either competitive or non-competitive projected takeovers (South Dakota, for example). Coincidentally, thirty-six governorships, of which 14 are currently competitive, are also on tap. Looking at the primary lineups for these competitive races, we see that they fall into three different categories.
Seven senators, 6 Democrats and 1 Republican, are seeking reelection in competitive races this year. The Democrats are Mark Begich (AK), Mark Pryor (AR), Mark Udall (CO), Mary Landrieu (LA), Jeanne Shaheen (NH) and Kay Hagan (NC). They are joined by Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY). Eleven incumbent governors are also facing competitive reelection bids in 2014. They consist of 8 Republicans and 3 Democrats.
Thirteen Senate primary contests from eight different states and twelve gubernatorial primaries in eleven states held primaries that were, well, no contest. I won't list them all here, but it is worthy to note that in some cases - Arkansas GOP Senate, Georgia DEM Senate, for example - having a non-competitive primary meant the nominee was the top choice of the party from the outset. In other cases - Michigan GOP Senate, Montana DEM Senate - the absence of primary competition resulted from the best choice deciding against running.
The first two categories are included for completeness. However, these races are not very useful when evaluating the role of primary voters in their parties' prospects. Their impact is gleaned best from races which featured a primary election in doubt.
Let's take a look at several of these primaries race by race and grade primary voters on whether they have improved or impaired their parties' chances by the choice they made.
Alaska Senate (GOP)
Republicans here are salivating at the opportunity to unseat Mark Begich in this conservative state. Three high profile candidates vied for that honor. GOP voters made the right choice by selecting Former Alaska Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan. While Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell would have given Begich a strong challenge, Republicans avoided a concession by not picking lightning rod Joe Miller. GRADE: A
Georgia Senate (GOP)
Businessman David Perdue and Congressman Jack Kingston got the most votes in the primary election. However, since neither was able to eclipse the requisite 50% +1 to avoid a runoff, Georgia Republicans had to return to the ballot box a month later to finalize their pick. They get high marks for picking Perdue, but the prolonged runoff period subjected the nominee to more intra-party conflict and gave Democrat Michelle Nunn a longer grace period. GRADE: B
Iowa Senate (GOP)
The biggest accomplishment by GOP primary voters here was to avoid having the state convention decide their nominee. Joni Ernst, who has an enviable bio well-suited to run for public office, captured more than enough votes to earn the nomination outright. A convention-brokered selection could have resulted in an untenable general election option. GRADE: A
North Carolina Senate (GOP)
Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan is one of the more vulnerable incumbents in the Senate this cycle, and Tarheel Republicans had at least three viable options who were faring well, pre-primary, against her in the polls. Thom Tillis, the GOP establishment candidate, prevailed, avoiding a potentially damaging runoff in the process. While Tea Party fans aren't as keen on the career politician as they would have been with either physician Greg Brannon or Pastor Mark Harris, Tillis is an electable choice in the general election - and avoiding that runoff is a big positive. GRADE: A-
Colorado Governor (GOP)
Primary voters on the Republican side get high marks for not nominating unelectable Tom Tancredo. They settled on Bob Beauprez, 2006 gubernatorial nominee, by just 3 points over Tancredo in a four-way race. And while Beauprez was not impressive in his failed bid for governor 8 years ago, he has seemed a stronger candidate so far this year. GRADE: A-
Hawaii Governor (DEM)
Democratic voters in the Aloha state made history this year by handing Neil Abercrombie the largest primary defeat of a sitting governor in U.S. history. Judging from pre-primary polling, they made a great move in doing so. As a result, they have improved their chances of keeping this deeply blue state in the fold. State Senator David Ige still trails Republican nominee Duke Aiona, Jr. in the polls (ed. note: not anymore), but he has the potential of staging the comeback Abercrombie could not. GRADE: A+
Illinois Governor (GOP)
Bruce Rauner has the funds to finance his campaign for governor. That's important in a state that contains the expensive Chicago media market. Also, as a political newcomer, he doesn't have the track record the other Republican contenders have. That's likely a good thing as well in this race against a wily, battle-tested incumbent like Democrat Pat Quinn. GRADE: A
Wisconsin Governor (DEM)
Democrats would like to get rid of Scott Walker perhaps more than any other governor. He survived their recall election in 2012 and has taken steps to undermine their power base in the state. Democratic primary voters selected educator Mary Burke to take him on in 2014. Judging from how she is performing in the polls so far, it looks like they have made a good choice. As of this writing, Election Projection shows Burke defeating Walker by a fraction. GRADE: A
That's a lot of good grades! Unlike the Republican primary disasters noted by Walter, this year's primary results show that voters from both parties have done a good job picking the right nominees to make the most of their general election opportunities.
posted by Scott Elliott at 12:07pm 09/15/14 :: link
Monday, September 8, 2014
A second poll dump from the collaboration between CBS, The New York Times
and YouGov has shaken up the numbers here
at Election Projection, producing a total of eight Senate rating changes. However, despite all the movement, the projected balance of
power in the 2014 Senate elections
remains unchanged at 51-46-3.
The Iowa Senate election
is back in the Democratic fold with Bruce Braley
forging a small lead over Republican Joni Ernst, but Democrat incumbent Mark Begich is now projected to lose the
Alaska Senate election
to Republican Dan Sullivan.
Here is the list of rating changes in today's projection update:
In addition to the eight Senate rating changes - which split evenly between the parties - the list also includes a change in the
Oklahoma governor election
. GOP Governor Mary Fallin moves comfortably ahead of Democratic
challenger Joe Dorman.
posted by Scott Elliott at 6:14pm 09/08/14 :: link
Monday, August 25, 2014
The strongest GOP challenger emerged victorious from last week's Senate primary battle in Alaska. Dan Sullivan, former Alaska Natural
Resources Commissioner, triumphed by eight points over his nearest Republican opponent. Surprisingly, the runner-up was not
Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell as primary polls had predicted. Instead, Joe Miller, who famously defeated Senator Lisa Murkowski
in the 2010 GOP primary only to lose to her write-in campaign in the general election, came in second.
Treadwell only managed a distant third with less than a quarter of the vote. Miller's performance left some on the left
wondering if they missed an opportunity
to help the controversial maverick
get the nomination. Pre-primary polls
indicate Democratic incumbent
Mark Begich would have had an easy time against Miller.
But that won't be the matchup on the ballot in November. Sullivan's name will be there, not Miller's. And that makes
the path to re-election considerably more challenging. Right now, the
Alaska Senate election
is projected to go to Begich by a 4.8% margin,
largely due to last month's CBS News/NYT/YouGov survey putting him comfortably ahead. The last two polls, however, one from
Public Policy Polling (Begich +4) and Rasmussen (Sullivan +2) paint a truer picture, I believe, of the race's competitiveness.
Despite Alaska's lean to the right, Begich will not be an easy target for Republicans. The balance of power in the Senate
very well could rest with the outcome on the Last Frontier. With Sullivan as the GOP standard bearer, Republicans have their best
chance at victory, and I expect this contest will become more and more exciting as Election Day approaches.
posted by Scott Elliott at 9:23pm 08/25/14 :: link
Thursday, June 19, 2014
|This article appeared last week on PJMedia
Given all the dissatisfaction with President Obama and his administration and the level of frustration with ObamaCare, one might
expect a shellacking is on the horizon for his party in the 2014 elections. The latest round of
job approval numbers
shows the president's
approval still languishing in the low 40s, while approval for his health care law
is even lower
. That's not an
environment conducive to a strong electoral performance. On the contrary, such numbers should portend a calamitous result for
Democrats in November.
We saw that kind of election in 2010 when Republicans captured six Senate seats and won just about everything in sight en route
to an historic 63-seat net gain in the House. Some see a similar result looming in 2014 -
especially in the Senate
. However, were the votes cast today, I believe a case can be made that the GOP, while they likely would make
gains, would not perform well enough to term this cycle a wave election. There are factors on both the Senate and House fronts
that seem to indicate weíre heading toward a more neutral outcome.
Letís first take a look at the House and the factors that temper my bullishness toward the likelihood of a Republican wave in the lower chamber.
Generic congressional preference polling
There have been four elections since Bill Clinton ascended to the presidency in 1992 that I would consider "wave" elections.
In 1994, Newt Gingrich and friends crafted the "Contract with America" and captured the House majority by gaining 54 seats.
Congressional Republicans nationwide enjoyed a 7.1-point voting advantage over their Democratic counterparts that year.
Twelve years later, Bush fatigue precipitated a wave of a different color and ushered in a run of three consecutive wave elections.
In 2006, Democrats used an 8-point advantage in congressional voting to gain 30 seats and take back control of the House.
A 21-seat gain followed in 2008, aided by President Obama's sizable triumph on the top line and an even larger 10.4% Democratic
advantage at the congressional level. Then came the red tsunami of 2010. Republicans used a 6.8-point congressional
voting spread to score their now famous 63-seat haul.
The average voting advantage for the victorious party over these four wave elections was 8.1% and the average net gain was 42
seats. By contrast, the average voting advantage over the six non-wave elections during the same period was just 1.7% with an
average net gain of just 4.7 seats. This year, polling data measuring
this critical indicator
falls solidly in the
non-wave range. In fact, the Democrats
are currently fractionally ahead. So, itís difficult to envision any sizable
Republican gains in the House this year.
Competitive races outlook
Each wave election shares common characteristics for the party riding it - an abundance of pickup opportunities and a
dearth of vulnerable seats to defend. Election Projection wasn't around for the Republican romp in 1994, but I do have data from
the latter three wave elections to illustrate this point. By the time Election Day rolled around in 2006, EP was tracking 55
congressional races. Fifty-one were held by Republicans.
The same lopsided count benefited Republicans in 2010, only to a much greater degree. That year, Election Projection
tracked 112 congressional races, a staggering number in the age of incumbent-protecting redistricting strategies. Even more
remarkable is that 103 were held by Democrats! With so many vulnerable Democrats and so few vulnerable Republicans, it's no
wonder the GOP ruled the day once the votes were counted.
This year, congressional election waters seem much more placid. Election Projection is currently tracking just 46 competitive House
races, and the partisan breakdown is nearly even. Twenty-one seats are held by Republicans, twenty-five by Democrats.
Balance like that hardly indicates a wave is brewing out there.
One more point before we look at the Senate. In 2008, the blue team's advantage in the competitive House races list was clear, but,
at 49-18, it wasn't as pronounced as in 2006 or 2010. Moreover, despite the largest congressional vote advantage of the last
quarter-century, Democrats realized a net gain that fell short of the other three wave elections. The reason? They
already held 233 seats, so there simply wasnít as much upside for them.
lofty starting point
faces the GOP this year. With 234 seats already in their quiver, Republicans will find it hard to produce
substantial gains. And with no advantage in the congressional preference metric, they may find it hard to earn any gains at all.
Structural advantages in the Senate election line-up should produce large GOP gains in November - with or without a
Republican wave. And early polling data doesnít fit a wave-election model.
Nearly all the battlefields are in red states
Open Democratic seats in the deep red states of Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia all but ensure GOP gains in the Senate
this year. But the structural advantages for Republicans don't end there. The four most vulnerable Democratic
incumbents also hail from states won by Republican Mitt Romney in 2008. Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary
Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina are all struggling to keep their Senate seats in Republican-leaning states.
Even races which have Republicans concerned, the open seat election in Georgia and Mitch McConnell's re-election bid in Kentucky, are
being waged in GOP-friendly territory.
So from a structural standpoint, this year's Senate elections favor Republicans in a big way. With so many targets situated
in Republican states, the GOP conceivably could win the Senate majority without a significant tailwind. That means a true GOP
wave requires a more aggressive target. Sweeping the races I've mentioned would be but a baseline. To achieve wave
election status, the GOP would need to add victories in blue states like Colorado, Iowa and Michigan.
Polling data is good - but not great - for Republican Senate candidates
So are the poll numbers there to foster confidence that such a run might come to pass for Republicans? Not at this point in
the election season. Election Projectionís current
do show the GOP
regaining the majority, but the massive takeover count one would expect in a wave election with such strong structural advantages just
Pryor leads Tom Cotton in Arkansas. Begich is ahead in Alaska. That's two races in red states which Democrats are
defending well. In Michigan, Republican Terri Land's early leads have vanished, and while newly-minted Republican nominee Joni
Ernst bests Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley in two post-primary polls in Iowa, her lead seems more like a temporary primary bounce than a
true advantage. Taken together, the polls show a good election is in store for Republicans, but a landslide may not be.
The political barometer, based on news cycles and voter unrest, promises a wave election for Republicans. But a deeper
investigation into the underlying factors of Election 2014 paints a different picture. The overall outlook is certainly positive for the
red team, but it might not deliver the kind of rout intrinsic to a wave election.
posted by Scott Elliott at 2:56pm 06/19/14 :: link
Thursday, November 14, 2013
First-term Senator Mark Begich, former Democratic Mayor of Anchorage, won election to the Senate six years ago against embattled Republican incumbent Ted Stevens. He received just 48% of the vote that
year and likely would not have beaten a scandal-free GOP opponent. That said, Begich has done a good job of engineering a moderate voting record in this very red state, and while he is quite vulnerable in
his first re-election bid, the outcome of the 2014 Alaska senate race may hinge on who Republicans choose to run against him.
Two men are currently favored to contend for that privilege. Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and 2010 Senate candidate Joe Miller are both running. If you recall, Miller burst onto the scene in 2010
by riding a Tea Party wave to the Republican nomination, defeating sitting Senator Lisa Murkowski. Unbowed, Murkowski exacted revenge by running, and winning, with a well-funded write-in
campaign. Now, four years later, Miller is competing again, and his staunch Tea Party stances on taxes and the size of government, among other conservative issues, will once again play well in the
Alaska senate GOP primary.
However, Lt. Gov. Treadwell hopes Alaskan Republicans will view him as the better choice to challenge Begich. In 2010, Treadwell teamed up with Governor Sean Parnell after his Republican primary
victory, and the pair went on to win the 2010 general election by over 20 percentage points. This time around, Treadwell looks to earn a ticket to Washington. His brand of conservatism may not be
as staunch as Miller's, but neither does it come in as controversial a persona.
The Alaska Senate Election, 2014 edition, will start out with a slight advantage for Begich if Miller triumphs in the primary. A Treadwell nomination, on the other hand, will land this race squarely in the
toss-up category. Either way, in a state that gave President Obama just 43% of the vote in 2012 and saw two Republican candidates (Murkowski and Miller) get 75% of the vote in the 2010 Senate race,
Begich's designation as one of the most vulnerable senators this cycle is well-deserved.
There is a 500-lb gorilla in the room with this race. That is, of course, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's potential run for this Senate seat. Although I don't expect her to go for it, a
Palin campaign would shake things up drastically. We'll need to revisit this preview should she enter.
Preliminary projection: Weak DEM Hold
You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Alaska Senate Election
page for polls, projections and updates. Also, check out the 2014 Senate Elections page for a summary of all Senate races on tap
in 2014 complete with EP's colorful red and blue Senate map.
posted by Scott Elliott at 10:44am 11/14/13 :: link