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Updated:
Sat. Sep 20, 2014
Senate
Republicans 51
Democrats 46
Independents 3
GOP +6, IND +1
House
Republicans 238
Democrats 197
GOP +4
Governors
Republicans 29
Democrats 21
no change
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November 4, 2014

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2014 Gubernatorial Races

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.

Incumbent Running
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.

Non-competitive Primaries
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.

Competitive Primaries
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
Yesterday, voters went to the polls in the last four primaries of the 2014 Election season (if you don't count Louisiana's open primary on Election Day).  The final four states were Delaware, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire, where Scott Brown won the GOP nomination to set up his much anticipated battle against Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen.  The other noteworthy result from yesterday was John Tierney's loss in the Democratic primary in Massachusetts' 6th District.  Tierney's defeat marked the first time this election that a Democratic incumbent failed to survive a primary challenge.

I'm always glad when no more primaries remain on the calendar because that means I can finalize all the races I'm tracking here at Election Projection.  This election, I'm tracking 116 races in all - 36 Senate, 44 House and 36 Governors.  The projection update I'll post later this evening will include all finalized matchups - no more undetermined candidates.

So today we begin the 8-week sprint to the finish line.  The year is shaping up to be a good year for Republicans and signs are starting to indicate it may be "wave-worthy" yet.  Regardless, I hope you'll make Election Projection a routine source for your election news and numbers.  I'll be updating the projections with new polls every day, Monday-Saturday, from now until my final projections on Election Eve.  Strap in and hold on - it's going to be an exciting ride!

posted by Scott Elliott at 1:01pm 09/10/14 :: link
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:

Today's Rating Changes
Election Old Rating New Rating
Alaska Senate Weak DEM Hold Weak GOP Gain
Hawaii Senate Strong DEM Hold Solid DEM Hold
Iowa Senate Weak GOP Gain Weak DEM Hold
Kentucky Senate Weak GOP Hold Mod GOP Hold
Minnesota Senate Strong DEM Hold Mod DEM Hold
New Jersey Senate Mod DEM Hold Strong DEM Hold
Oklahoma Governor Mod GOP Hold Solid GOP Hold
Oregon Senate Solid DEM Hold Strong DEM Hold
South Carolina Senate Solid GOP Hold Strong GOP Hold
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
Last week saw two major developments in the elections this year.  In Alaska, Democrats abandoned their frontal assault on Republican Governor Sean Parnell and merged their nominee, Byron Mallott, into the ticket of Independent Bill Walker.  By engineering a deal where Mallott becomes Walker's lt. governor candidate, Democrats hope to pool the Democratic and other non-GOP vote to overwhelm Parnell's support and unseat the incumbent.

In a three-way race, Parnell held a large lead in the polls but struggled to get to 40% with the combined Mallott/Walker vote edging into the low 40's.  The new two-man race between Parnell and Walker has been polled but once - a prior Public Policy Polling survey.  Parnell's new found challenge is highlighted by the poll which gives him a scant 1-point lead over Walker, 41-40.  This race has moved from Solid GOP Hold to a much more competitive Weak GOP Hold.

The other significant shift occurred in the Kansas Senate election where Democratic Chad Taylor announced he was withdrawing from the race.  After Kansas Secretary of State Kris Koback (R) ruled Taylor would not be removed from the ballot, the Democrat reiterated that he would not serve if elected.  The net of his decision is that Republicans find themselves with yet another very challenging race in this deep red state.

Now, in addition to trying to save embattled Governor Sam Brownback, Sunflower State Republicans must also fret over a two-way race between their incumbent, Senator Pat Roberts, and upstart Independent Greg Orman.  As in the race for Alaska governor, I could find but one poll testing the new matchup.  It isn't good news for the red team.  I'm doubtful the poll's findings will be confirmed by subsequent polling, but for now, Orman takes a commanding 10-point lead in the 2014 Kansas Senate election.

Until we have further polling data, this race moves from a Mod GOP Hold to a Strong IND Gain, our first Independent pick-up.  The projected tally in the Senate now stands at 51 Republicans, 46 Democrats, and 3 Independents.  As you can see, Republicans are still projected to take the majority, but Kansas' sudden competitiveness complicates their efforts to make that quest a reality.

posted by Scott Elliott at 11:09am 09/06/14 :: link
With Labor Day, summer break's symbolic end, behind us, the 2014 election season is underway in earnest.  The next 9 weeks will witness ever-increasing interest in the upcoming elections as part-time political observers start turning their attention to who is running for office - and who's projected to win.

So, if you're looking for a good time to take a baseline measurement, today's Senate House and gubernatorial numbers here at Election Projection provide a useful starting point.  Will this cycle fulfill its current promise of a status-quo election, or will Republicans start to see a wave building as interest builds and likely voter models become better defined?  As they say, only time will tell, but I hope you'll make Election Projection a daily stop as we keep our finger on the pulse of the American electorate, 2014 edition.

posted by Scott Elliott at 2:39pm 09/02/14 :: link
This one comes as a surprise to me.  The Boston Globe has released a poll showing Republican Charlie Baker ahead of Democrat Martha Coakley in the race for Massachusetts Governor.  This is just one poll and Massachusetts remains extremely liberal.  However, this race might be worth keeping a close eye on.  The primaries here aren't until September 9 - the final day of the 2014 primary season - but Coakley and Baker are heavily favored to prevail.

Point to note: Coakley was Scott Brown's opponent when he surprised the nation in January, 2010 by winning the open Senate seat of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and ushering in the Republican wave that year.  Perhaps she's headed toward a similar defeat in November.  Again, it's way too early to make any such predictions - especially in a state like Massachusetts.

Look for updated numbers this evening after I publish today's Election Projection.  Coakley will still be projected to win, but the race looks much closer than previously calculated.

posted by Scott Elliott at 12:11pm 08/29/14 :: link
Scott Walker, tried and true political survivor, faces yet another stiff challenge in the 2014 Wisconsin governor election.  You may remember Walker's unprecedented electoral feat back in 2010 when he survived a gubernatorial recall election.

His political opponents are more resolved than ever to unseat the Republican in this bluish battleground state, and recent polling data indicates they have a decent chance of succeeding.  This week's survey published by Marquette University gives the incumbent 47%, two points less than his Democratic opponent, educator Mary Burke.  Rasmussen's poll from earlier this month put Walker one point ahead of Burke, but the average of the two pushes Burke into the lead and gives her a projected Weak DEM Gain in the race.

This flip is the second for Democrats in today's governor projections and brings the projected tally to 28 Republicans and 22 Democrats.  These numbers represent a net 1-seat gain for the blue team.

posted by Scott Elliott at 9:34pm 08/27/14 :: link
Yesterday, Republicans in Arizona settled on state Treasurer Doug Ducey to face Democrat Fred DuVal in the battle to replace term-limited Governor Jan Brewer (R).  Before the primary, Election Projection carried a preliminary projection of Mod GOP Hold for this race.  Now that the nominees are known, I've calculated an "official" projection that is based on actual polling data.

The only two polls I have found testing a Ducey-DuVal matchup are from early in the year.  Nevertheless, they are what I have to go on, so they'll have to do until other polls are conducted.  For the time being, the projection calculations land this race in Weak DEM Gain territory with DuVal projected to win by 1.5%.  My hunch is that DuVal's lead will last just long enough for a couple more polls to be released.  Despite Arizona's bright blue color on EP's 2014 governor election map, I view this race as Ducey's to lose.

posted by Scott Elliott at 9:04pm 08/27/14 :: link
2014 State-by-State Projections
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Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
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Michigan
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Mississippi
Missouri
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Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
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New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
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Virginia
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West Virginia
Wisconsin
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