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Sat. Aug 30, 2014
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DEM +1
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DEM +1
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2014 Georgia Senate Race

Democrat Michelle Nunn and Republican David Perdue have held the title CEO, but in very different circumstances.  In their race for the open seat Georgia Senate election, both are trying to cast the other in a bad light because of their former executive position.  The Telegraph from Macon, GA notes their respective strategies.
Both candidates are political newcomers who see their business backgrounds as key to wooing independent voters in a race that has garnered national attention as Republicans seek control of the Senate.  The candidates also see an opportunity in attacking their opponent's business record as they look to the general election.
Nunn highlights her position's philanthropic efforts.
"David and I do have different real world experiences," Nunn said at a recent candidate forum. "I have an experience that has been about lifting people up over the last 26 years, building and growing organizations and getting things done for the people of Georgia in a collaborative way, a proven way of working across differences and party lines."
While Perdue touts his past experience dealing with the practical issues involved in running a private sector business and improving economic prospects.
"My issue isn't so much how she ran that organization," Perdue said. "It's just that that leadership does not prepare you, in my mind, to deal with issues we have in a free-enterprise system. I want to focus on why my background is more appropriate to lead in the Senate in regard to bringing economic and free-enterprise solutions to fix the problems that we have with the economy today."
This race continues to be a close battle - one of just two featuring seats currently held by Republicans (the Kentucky Senate race is the other).  Election Projection rates the contest a Weak GOP Hold with Perdue ahead at the moment by 2.8 points.
posted by Scott Elliott at 3:29pm 08/30/14 :: link
Today's polling update has produced one party switcher.  The Senate race in Georgia turned blue here at EP last Thursday.  However, Michelle Nunn's advantage was short-lived.  Landmark Communications, whose July 15th poll put the Democratic nominee ahead by 6 and propelled her into the lead, released another poll today.  Nunn's lead has shrunk to 4 points in this most recent poll, but because of the closeness of the race, the Democrat's edge narrowed enough to flip the projection calculations to Republican nominee David Perdue's favor.

Removing the only projected Democratic Senate pickup returns the projected balance of power in the Senate to 49 Republicans, 49 Democrats and 2 Independents, a net gain of four seats for the Republicans.

Be sure to turn in tomorrow for a big bunch of polls.  CBS News and NY Times have collaborated with YouGov to conduct a boatload of polls surveying Senate and governor races from all over the country.  It'll be interesting to see how these new polls affect Election Projection's numbers.

Filed under:  2014 Georgia Senate Race 
posted by Scott Elliott at 10:20pm 07/28/14 :: link
On Wednesday, I reported Charlie Crist's move ahead of Rick Scott in the Florida governor election.  A day later, SurveyUSA released a poll giving Democrat Paul Davis an eye-popping eight-point lead over Kansas incumbent governor, Republican Sam Brownback in the Kansas governor election.  I'm pretty sure that poll will be shown to be an outlier.  Nevertheless, the result shifted the color of Kansas from red to blue on the 2014 governor election map.  These two flips combine to give Democrats a projected net pickup of 2 governorships, with the projected balance of power moving to 27 Republicans and 23 Democrats.

Late yesterday, Rasmussen released a poll too late to be included in Friday's update.  The survey of the Georgia Senate race, the first since Georgia's primary runoff on Tuesday, puts GOP nominee David Perdue well in front of Democrat Michelle Nunn.  While I don't necessarily disagree that Perdue is ahead - GOP voters should coalesce behind Perdue now that the runoff has passed - I'm skeptical he leads by 6.

The other poll in the projection calculations for this race is a Landmark Communications offering taken on July 15.  It showed a quite different picture of the race - exactly opposite, in fact, with Nunn enjoying a 6-point lead over Perdue.  When I average the two polls together to arrive at the Election Projection for the contest, the calculation reveals a tie.  So why is Georgia still colored blue on today's Senate projection map?

In developing my projection methodology, I have always made it my policy to avoid "toss-ups" in my projections.  As a result, I had to devise a strategy for handling ties.  Because undecideds have a tendency to break toward the challenger in any given race, I have adopted the policy of projecting the challenger in a tied race by 0.1%.  Therefore, Georgia Senate stays blue for the time being.

posted by Scott Elliott at 9:41pm 07/26/14 :: link
Last night's Georgia primary runoff election cemented the GOP nominee, David Perdue, and allowed me to move the 2014 Georgia Senate election from a preliminary projection to an official one.  As a result, Democrat Michelle Nunn is now projected ahead of Perdue thanks to her aggregate 0.5% lead in the last two polls here.  The change reduces the net Republican pickup in the Senate to just 3 seats - 3 short of the mark they'll need to regain the majority.  Today's Senate tally stands at 48 Republicans, 50 Democrats and 2 Independents

The good news doesn't stop there for the blue team.  On the 2014 Governor elections summary page, EP's latest map features a blue Florida, heralding Democrat Charlie Crist's new lead over Republican incumbent Rick Scott.  With this update, the projected Republican gubernatorial majority is reduced by one.  The projected tally stands at 28 Republicans and 22 Democrats

Back on June 10, the projections offered a much different outlook.  Senate Republicans were projected to win six seats and win the majority, while Republicans were also looking at a projected gain in governors of two seats.  Declining GOP fortunes are not indicative of a coming red wave and further bolster my current conviction that 2014 may be a status-quo election.

That said, there is still plenty of time for the GOP to gain momentum - President Obama's dismal approval numbers continue to provide potential fuel for that - but, as things stand now, Democrats must be feeling pretty good about their situation in this sixth-year midterm election.

posted by Scott Elliott at 7:41pm 07/23/14 :: link
David Perdue, cousin of former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, surprised pollsters yesterday by claiming a narrow victory over Congressman Jack Kingston in the Republican Senate primary runoff.  Kingston led the polls going in by a half dozen, so Perdue's win was unexpected.

Now that the nominees have been decided for both parties, look for this race to increase in intensity.  As one of just two possible Democratic takeovers in the Senate, it was already bound to attract some interest.  However, with Michelle Nunn, the Democratic nominee, polling very well, I'm sure it will garner even more attention both in the state and nationally.

Democrats may be poised to enjoy some success in this red state this year.  Unique circumstances, rather than a long term trend, are more to credit, I believe.  Powerhouse names on both the Senate and governor lines shore up their possibilities, and an ethics investigation in the statehouse helps out, too.  In what should be a strong Republican year, Georgia may turn out to be an unlikely bright spot for the blue team.

Update:  The numbers for this race here at Election Projection will be updated this evening after I post the daily projection update.  The projection currently is still just preliminary.  You can track this race on the Georgia Senate election page, and get a covenient at-a-glance look at all the Senate races on EP's 2014 Senate elections summary page.

Filed under:  2014 Georgia Senate Race 
posted by Scott Elliott at 10:42am 07/23/14 :: link
The GOP senate primary runoff today in Georgia will determine who will run against Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn.  The two Republicans battling for that honor are Jack Kingston, a congressman who represents the Savannah-area 1st district and David Perdue, cousin of former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue.  Primary polling gives Congressman Kingston a small edge just outside the margin of error.

Notably, both Kingston and Perdue have fallen behind Nunn in general election polling.  The Peach State is shaping up to be an expected headache for Republicans this year.  Democrats enjoy a super-heavyweight combo, at least from a name recognition standpoint, with Sam Nunn's daughter on the Senate line and Jimmy Carter's grandson running for governor.

Correction: The post previously and erroneously included Congressman Paul Broun as Kingston's primary opponent. That error has been corrected.

Filed under:  2014 Georgia Senate Race 
posted by Scott Elliott at 11:13am 07/22/14 :: link
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.

House Elections

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.

That same 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.

Senate Elections

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 Senate projections 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 isnít there.

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
A perusal of the 2014 primary election schedule reveals that only June 3 is a bigger primary day than tomorrow.  Voters in six states will cast ballots to decide party nominees for races at all levels of government.  The table below has the list of states, along with a race from each that Election Projection is tracking this year.
Primaries on Tuesday, May 20, 2014
State Local Polling Hours Highlighted Race Link to Results
Arkansas 7:30AM-7:30PM AR Senate Click here
Georgia 7AM - 7PM GA Senate Click here
Idaho 8AM - 8PM ID Senate Click here
Kentucky 6AM - 6PM KY Senate Click here
Oregon Vote by mail OR Governor Click here
Pennsylvania 7AM - 8PM PA Governor Click here
Some time before polls close, I'll be providing links where you can watch the returns come in tomorrow evening.

Races that are of particular interest to me tomorrow include the Democratic primary for Pennsylvania Governor, the Kentucky Senate GOP primary and the GOP primary for Georgia Senate.  Pennsylvania primary polls show Tom Wolf to be headed to the Democratic nomination.  Current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is way ahead of Tea Party favorite Matt Bevin in Kentucky primary polls.  And businessman David Perdue, cousin of former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, leads Georgia primary polling by an average of 8 points.

Update:  Links to the returns are now posted for each state.  Tomorrow, I will begin updating EP's race pages to reflect the results of today's primary elections.

posted by Scott Elliott at 11:42pm 05/19/14 :: link
Last Friday, I wrapped up a tour of the 2014 gubernatorial elections.  Tomorrow I'll be embarking on a quick tour of 48 competitive House races.  In the interim, I thought revisiting the Senate election landscape would be interesting and relevant, especially since some recent polling data has altered the outlook of a few races.

Arkansas:  Incumbent Mark Pryor is polling better than he was when I published Election Projection's preview of the Arkansas Senate race.  The last two surveys put him ahead of Republican Tom Cotton by an average of 1.5 points.  This race is still a major target for Republicans, and I have major doubts as to whether Pryor can survive Cotton's challenge in this deeply Republican state.  However, the polling data calls it differently at this point in the campaign.  Based on that data, I am changing the preliminary projection of the Arkansas Senate Election to Weak DEM Hold.

Colorado:  The candidacy of Cory Gardner, a GOP congressman, has generated some excitement among Colorado Republicans as they try to unseat Democratic incumbent Mark Udall.  They believe he represents the best chance to claim this Senate seat.  Polling data supports their optimism, to a point.  Gardner gets closest to Udall in polls conducted here, but he still comes up a couple points short.  Now, to be sure, his prospects could improve as we move closer to the election, but for the time being, Udall is still the favorite.  Weak DEM Hold

Georgia:  Michele Nunn, the Democratic Senate candidate with the golden last name, looks like she'll be every bit as strong a contender for the open seat here as Democrats hoped she would be.  Polls actually give her the advantage against three of five Republican nomination contenders.  David Perdue, cousin of former Governor Sonny Perdue, is leading the race for the GOP nomination.  He also happens to be one of the two Republicans who are polling ahead of Nunn.  I'm still confident a Republican, probably Perdue, will be victorious come November, but Nunn's success so far prompts me to move this race to Weak GOP Hold.

Michigan:  Republican Terri Land marched out to a surprise lead over Democrat Gary Peters in the Michigan Senate election.  Multiple early polls from a variety of polling firms showed her ahead by two to eight points over the winter.  With the coming of Spring, however, Peters began to close the gap.  Two of the last three polls give him the edge.  Notably, those two polls are both from Democratic pollsters while the third, the one which has Land up by 2, is a Republican firm.  Partisan polling slant notwithstanding, I do believe Peters has moved out in front by a hair, and, as a result, I'm changing the preliminary projection for this race to Weak DEM Hold.

Significantly, these updates remove two projected Republican pickups from the 2014 Senate elections map and return the projected majority in the Senate to the Democrats.  Let me add a caveat: these are preliminary projections that can and will change, perhaps drastically, between now and Election Day.  To illustrate that point, Nate Silver has stated that Republicans could win anywhere from 1 to 11 Senate seats in 2014.  That means a lot of Senate races are still very much up in the air.  As an electoral prognosticator and election observer, I can't wait to see how all these competitive races develop.  It's going to be an exciting 7 months.

posted by Scott Elliott at 9:14pm 04/15/14 :: link
In a climate that favors Republicans, Democrats look to two states for opportunities to mitigate GOP gains in the Senate in 2014.  Only Mitch McConnell in Kentucky and the open seat here in Georgia are considered even remotely vulnerable among the fourteen Senate seats Republicans must try to hold.  Three factors give Democrats hope that they can get a rare victory in a southern state Senate race - Saxby Chambliss' retirement, a crowded, possibly contentious GOP primary field, and Democrat Michelle Nunn's candidacy.

Three congressmen, Paul Broun (CD-10), Phil Gingrey (CD-11) and Jack Kingston (CD-1), are running for the Republican nomination in the 2014 Georgia Senate Race.  Five others have also entered the race including David Perdue, a cousin of former Governor Sonny Perdue.  Third quarter 2013 FEC reports show three candidates - Kingston, Gingrey and Perdue - have over $1 mlliion on hand, and two more - Broun and 2010 gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel have over $300,000.  The abundance of money portends a heated battle for the GOP nomination that could and probably will help the Democratic nominee make this a fight in the general election.

Michelle Nunn looks to be that nominee.  Her name value here provides instant recognition (she's the daughter of former Democratic Senator Sam Nunn), and Georgia Democrats are encouraged by her first-tier candidacy.  Since jumping into the race back in July, Nunn has already raised $1.7 million and has nearly $1.4 million on hand.  Several others have declared on the Democratic side, including a former Georgia state Senator, but none is expected to give Nunn a legitimate challenge in the primary.

Once the primaries are settled, we should see an interesting and competitive general election campaign.  Considering Chambliss' narrow 3-point victory here in 2008, one might be tempted to give Nunn even-money odds to capture the seat now that Chambliss is retiring.  But 2008 was a strong Democratic year with President-to-be Barack Obama at the top of the ticket.  On the flipside, take a look at 2010's Georgia Senate race, a 20-point rout by Republican Johnny Isakson, and one might want to write off any chance of a Democratic victory.  2014 will be unlike either 2008 or 2010.  Instead, with at least a moderate GOP wind blowing, the Republican nominee - despite primary bruises - should be able to claim a close but comfortable win.

Preliminary projection:  Mod GOP Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the Georgia 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 10:54am 11/22/13 :: link
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