Current
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Updated:
Fri. Aug 22, 2014
Senate
Republicans 51
Democrats 47
Independents 2
GOP +6
House
Republicans 234
Democrats 201
no change
Governors
Republicans 30
Democrats 20
GOP +1
2014 Elections on Demand
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November 4, 2014

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2014 North Carolina Senate Race

The Tarheel State is colored red on today's Senate projection map.  That means Republican Thom Tillis is projected to defeat incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan.  However, the average of polling on this race over the last month comes out to an exact tie.

As I mentioned a while back when the same thing yeilded a projected Democratic takeover in the Georgia Senate election, my policy in the event of a Senate or gubernatorial tie is to give the projection to the challenger. (I do not like toss-ups!)

The switch moves the projected Senate tally to 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats and 2 Independents.  Since both independents caucus with the Democrats and Vice President Joe Biden would cast the tie-breaking vote, Republicans are left one seat short of the majority.

In other news, I want to share again that Election Projection's forum, A Circle of Soapboxes, is up and running.  Already several folks have registered.  I'm sure you have something to say, and EP's forum is just the place to say it.  Your soapbox awaits!  Come register and join in the conversation.  Click here to check it out.

posted by Scott Elliott at 6:55pm 08/05/14 :: link
Today we are exactly 120 days from Election Day, 2014.  With Independence Day behind us, the buildup toward November 4 should be steady from here on in.  I hope everyone had a meaningful and safe July 4 holiday celebrating what is still the greatest country on earth, our United States of America.

As we kick off this post-holiday summer stretch, I thought it would be a good time to assess the status of the electoral landscape.  Despite the likelihood of strong Republican gains in the Senate, the political waters remain relatively calm.  Democrats still hold a slight advantage in generic Congressional polling, making a wave election in the House of Representatives highly unlikely at this point.  Even in the Senate, where Republicans hope to pick up enough seats to take the majority, Election Projection's summary of the 2014 Senate elections currently has them falling just short.

Senate Review
All year, three states have been looking like certain Republican pickups, and nothing in West Virginia, Montana or South Dakota indicates any change in that assessment.  Republicans should gain all three and raise their seat count in the Senate to 48.  But though opportunities abound for additional takeovers, their prospects of getting to 51 - based on recent polling data - is shaky at best.

Arkansas and Louisiana sport a red shade on EP's Senate projection map, indicating a Republican gain, but neither is a sure thing.  In Arkansas, Republican nominee Tom Cotton is enjoying the benefit of a partisan Magellan poll and a Rasmussen poll to claim a narrow lead over Democratic incumbent Mark Pryor.  A Magellan poll is also the impetus for Bill Cassidy's current lead against Mary Landrieu in Louisiana.

Two other juicy targets for the GOP, Mark Begich in Alaska and Kay Hagan in North Carolina lead their respective Republican opponents. Without a less likely victory in a state like Colorado, Iowa or Michigan, Republicans must win these two to reach that coveted 51-seat mark.  But it might take even more than that given the rumblings of a certain southern belle.

Down in Georgia, it looks like Congressman Jack Kingston should win the runoff for the GOP nomination against David Purdue.  Trouble is, Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn is polling ahead of Kingston right now, and this race is looking more and more like one Nunn could win.

House Review
Not much has changed on the House front over the last several weeks.  Come to think of it, that'll probably be the story all year long - even after the votes have been counted.  With the GOP holding the upper hand by a 234-201 tally, Democrats appear likely to withstand the dreaded 6-year itch without substantial losses in the lower chamber.  I've said this before, but it bears repeating.   Legitimate pickup opportunities for either party just aren't that plentiful this year.

The current 2014 House election projections here at EP have the GOP gaining 3 seats - California CD-52, North Carolina CD-7 and Utah CD-4.  Democrats are projected to add four GOP seats to their numbers - California CD-31, Colorado CD-6, Iowa CD-3 and New York CD-11. Taken together, these gains represent a net improvement of one seat for the blue team.  Don't be surprised to see a similar projection here on November 4.

Historically speaking, this should be a very good election for the GOP. However, unless Republicans can do a better job of connecting Democrats to President Obama's dismal job approval and articulating a better alternative, it looks like this year might be a golden opportunity largely squandered.

Governors Review
Statehouse races are traditionally less partisan than Senate or House contests.  It is much more likely in today's polarized political world to see a governor than a senator or representative from the minority party.  EP's 2014 governor election projections serve to illustrate that point.  Of the three projected Republican pickups, two are in deep blue states - Illinois and Hawaii.

On the other hand, Arkansas' increasingly Republican lean is a major factor in that state's projected switch to red team.  Democrats will have a very difficult time holding the governorship without an incumbent running.

Two positives are there for Democrats, however. It looks like Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett is on his way out.  Struggling against approval ratings even worse than President Obama, Corbett is a heavy underdog at this point to Democrat Tom Wolf.  And in Maine, Republican incumbent Paul LePage isn't in nearly as bad a shape as Corbett, but he's locked in a very tough battle, nonetheless. Congressman Mike Michaud leads three-way polling over LePage by a small margin with Independent Eliot Cutler pulling a strong 15% of the vote.

As I mentioned above, Republicans at the present time are projected to win the statehouse in Illinois and Hawaii.  However, this is only July and both those states are heavily Democratic.  I know I claimed that gubernatorial races are less partisan, but party ID still matters.  I have my doubts, especially in Hawaii, that the Republican candidate will maintain the lead until voting starts.

I took the week off last week for the most part.   God willing, it will be the last break for me between now and Election Day.  So look for lots of election coverage here at EP for the duration.  Even if this year turns out to be indeed a status-quo election, there is still plenty of excitement to be had.  And, who knows, a lot of time remains for the political winds to muster a howl.

Look for the next update of the numbers this evening.

posted by Scott Elliott at 12:51am 07/07/14 :: link
Today's numbers are posted.  I found a few interesting results to point out among the latest polls.  First, SurveyUSA has a poll out of Kansas giving Democrat Paul Davis a surprising 6-point lead over incumbent Republican Governor Sam Brownback.  Time will tell if that poll is an outlier or indicative of an unexpectedly difficult re-election bid for Brownback.  Kansas does have a history, despite its deep red nature, of electing Democrats to the statehouse, so Brownback would be wise to take Davis' challenge very seriously.  You can get the details on this race on the Kansas Governor election page.

Second, Rasmussen's latest poll testing the Colorado Senate election puts Republican challenger Cory Gardner just a single point behind incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Udall.  Rasmussen's track record of late has been suspect, but an April Quinnipiac poll found the same one point separating Udall and Gardner.  It looks like Republicans may have a legitimate takeover opportunity in the Rocky Mountain State this year.

Finally, a poll by the conservative-leaning Civitas organization gives Kay Hagan a four-point lead over Republican Thom Tillis in the North Carolina Senate election.  As a result, the Democratic incumbent is projected to keep the seat for the blue team, reducing the GOP's projected Senate gain to just 5 seats - one less than they need for the majority.  Projected tally:  50 Republicans, 48 Democrats, 2 Independents

posted by Scott Elliott at 5:52pm 06/30/14 :: 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
The Senate race in North Carolina promised from the outset to be a close contest as incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan has faced dismal approval numbers in this reddish-purple state.  My preliminary evaluation of the race numbered it among numerous GOP projected takeovers in the Senate.  That changed when I began using polling data to calculate an official projection after the GOP primary last week.

Well, another poll is out this week and, lo and behold, North Carolina is painted red again on EP's 2014 Senate elections map.  A Public Policy Polling survey says the race is now a tie, and that result puts Republican nominee Thom Tillis back on top in the North Carolina Senate election.

But the Tarheel State's color changes are far from over more than likely.  I could see this one flipping a half-dozen more times before November 4.  Be sure to check back often to find out what North Carolina's color of the day is.

posted by Scott Elliott at 8:52pm 05/13/14 :: link
The automation process has progressed to the point where I can calculate and update official projections on all races in which the two party candidates are known.  Today's numbers reflect the first such update for the 2014 election season.  As I explained yesterday, one of the side-effects of moving to formula-based calculations is the possibility of large shifts in the numbers.  That's what we see today.

In the Senate elections, the Louisiana Senate race and the North Carolina Senate race have switch projected outcomes.  Republican Bill Cassidy is now projected to edge out incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu in Louisiana while Republican Thom Tillis is now projected to fall just short of unseating incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan in North Carolina.

The House elections is where this initial jumpstart has impacted projections the most.  Democrats have gone from a projected net loss of 2 seats to a projected gain of two.  Four seats sport new colors in today's update.  California CD-52 has moved back to the Democrats.  Colorado CD-6, Iowa CD-3 and New Jersey CD-3 have left the projected GOP fold.

The main reason for this exodus is the current generic congressional polling average and how that number plays into my House race projection formula.  Since Democrats lead this important metric right now, any race labeled a toss-up by all three experts who comprise my pundit panel will be projected to go to the blue team.  This is the case in all four of these races.

Turning our attention to the 2014 gubernatorial races, the switch to EP's official projections has yielded a similar move in the opposite direction.  Thanks to early polling in Hawaii, former Lt. Governor Duke Aiona is projected to win the Hawaii Governor election over incumbent Democrat Neil Abercrombie.  I'm highly dubious that he'll hold that lead until November.  The other gubernatorial projection flip comes from the absolute opposite side of the country.  Incumbent Governor Paul LaPage is now projected to win a three-way Maine Governor election.  This race promises to be a legitimate barnburner.

Now that things are setup here at Election Projection, you can look forward to new updates six days a week between now and Election Day.  I hope you'll enjoy the ride!

posted by Scott Elliott at 10:44pm 05/09/14 :: link
Now that I have completed previews of all the races I'll be tracking here this year at Election Projection, I am transitioning out of the preliminary phase of the election season.  Primaries are starting to pass with frequency this month which means I'll be bringing more and more races online with official projections.

Some of you may be wondering what I mean by "official" vs. "preliminary" projections.  I'll be glad to explain.  The heart of Election Projection's objectivity - and historical accuracy - is data-driven projections.  Each election cycle, I craft formulas for Senate, House and Governor election races using either an aggregation of polls (for Senate and Governor race) or a combination of polls and pundit race ratings (for House races).

Early each cycle, before party primaries and survey availability, it's not feasible to come up with data-driven projections.  That's where my preliminary projections come in.  Until a race's party nominees are known, I make a preliminary pick of which party I believe will win based on experience and other factors surrounding it.  Once the party nominees are apparent (sometimes this happens before the actual primary voting takes place) I can begin official projections using my formula.

That's where we are now.  This week, I'm working feverishly in the background finishing a program that automates projection calculations.  It's almost done, and you can see some races now feature the official Election Projection, complete with the corresponding projection data.  Check out the North Carolina Senate election or North Carolina 7th District election pages for examples of the "official" Election Projection at work.

The Senate race illustrates an important point about projection.  Sometimes when I transition from perception-guided preliminary projections to data-driven official projections, the projected outcome of a race can change.  Democrat Kay Hagan is now - according to recent polling data - projected to retain her seat in the Senate.

Let me mention one more thing.  While I'm putting the finishing touches on the automated process, it's highly likely you may encounter intermittent issues such as strange numbers, incorrect party colors or pages not rendering correctly.  Please have patience - it will work itself out soon. Thanks!

posted by Scott Elliott at 12:30pm 05/08/14 :: link
Voters are making their way to polling places all over North Carolina this morning to choose party nominees for various races including the Republican who will face Kay Hagan.  The question in that race isn't so much who will get the most votes - Thom Tillis is leading Greg Brannon in the North Carolina primary polls by a healthy margin with Mark Harris following in third.  The question is whether Tillis can avoid a runoff by getting 40% of the primary vote.

You can find the North Carolina primary results on this website.  I'll post a link to the actual results this evening once they've starting posting them.

Update:  Check here for the returns for today's primary in North Carolina.

posted by Scott Elliott at 10:04am 05/06/14 :: link
As May 2014 opens up, we have seen just two states hold primaries so far this election season.  That number will swell quickly now that May has arrived.  Tomorrow begins the primary rush, and in just seven weeks 29 more states will have held primary elections.

You can keep track of which states are on the primary slate each Tuesday by following EP's handy 2014 Primary Election Schedule, or check out EP's List of Primary Elections presented in a state-by-state view to make it easy to find your state's filing deadline, primary election and primary runoff dates.

On tap tomorrow is my home state of North Carolina. In the headliner primary race, Republican voters here will be choosing the candidate to face vulnerable Democratic Senator Kay Hagan in November.  Indiana and Ohio wil be holding primaries tomorrow as well.

Check back here tomorrow evening for links to the primary results.

posted by Scott Elliott at 11:03am 05/05/14 :: link
I'm done with my Senate race previews.  And after flipping the North Carolina Senate Election to red due to yet another poll showing incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan falling behind, Election Projection has the GOP projected to gain 6 seats at this early stage in the election cycle.  Of course, that means if these projections hold true, Republicans will claim the majority in the 2014 Senate Elections.

The six projected takeovers are:

Three other states that could swing the GOP's way are:
  • Alaska - Incumbent:  Mark Begich
  • Iowa - Open seat (Tom Harkin)
  • Louisiana - Incumbent:  Mary Landrieu
Scott Brown makes New Hampshire somewhat of a wildcard as well.  Finally, two GOP seats are competitive - Georgia and Kentucky - with the Bluegrass State being much more so.
posted by Scott Elliott at 2:44pm 01/29/14 :: link
After yesterday's release of Rasmussen's North Carolina Senate poll, the consensus has built to a point where it is clear incumbent Democratic Senator Kay Hagan is in real danger of losing her seat.  All three Republicans tested came out ahead of Hagan in this latest poll.  That makes three straight surveys that have her losing, and that's enough to move me to change my preliminary projection for the North Carolina Senate Election from Weak DEM Hold to Weak GOP Gain.

The move holds more significance than just this race.  It also represents the sixth and deciding projected takeover in the GOP's quest in gain the majority in the 2014 Senate Elections.  At 51 seats, the projected Republican contingent would be enough to claim control of the chamber.  Certainly these numbers will fluctuate between now and November, but with at least another two possible takeover opportunities in Alaska and Louisiana on the table, I believe the minority party in the Senate has a better than 50-50 change to become the majority party in January, 2015.

posted by Scott Elliott at 5:51pm 01/28/14 :: link
What do current North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr and the late Jesse Helms have in common?   Aside from being Republican senators from the Tar Heel state, they are also the only two people to win reelection to the Senate in North Carolina since 1980.   That fact alone should make Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan a little nervous.

She is up for reelection for the first time in the 2014 North Carolina Senate race, and her path back to Washington promises to be fraught with peril.   Battling a negative drag from her voting record, Hagan has seen her job approval rating dip to 39% in one recent poll.   Incumbents with that suppressed level of approval almost never win reelection.   And early polling data hints at the difficulty she faces winning a second Senate race here.

Public Policy Polling, coincidentally a North Carolina firm, just released a survey on this race on Tuesday.   They find that Hagan, who had a sizable lead in their poll last September, has fallen behind all five GOP hopefuls that they tested.   What's more alarming than the one to two point deficits confronting her is the fact that she couldn't get above 41 or 42 percent in any of them.

But the red team isn't checking this one off as a sure pickup just yet.   Despite a year that shaping up well for Republicans across the nation, this is still very much a battleground state, and GOP fans aren't exactly thrilled at the lineup of candidates vying to challenge Hagan in November.   The front runner appears to be N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis.   If he wins the nomination, Democrats feel they can attack him on ethics and the legislation pushed by the N.C. General Assembly under his watch.   In fact, they have already been attacking him for months.

The other contenders on the Republican side, a physician, radio host, retired Army nurse and minister, are political newbies.   The physician, however, is one to keep an eye on.   His name is Greg Brannon, and he has secured endorsements from Senator Rand Paul, RedState.com's Erick Erickson and the National Association for Gun Rights, indications that his campaign could turn into a viable alternative to the Speaker.

Regardless of who wins the GOP nomination, this race is a sure bet to be hard-fought, entertaining and competitive.   It is truly a tossup.   Hagan's job approval makes her vulnerable in the worst way. But a lack of confidence in her eventual opponent offsets that the vulnerability. As a prognosticator who doesn't use a tossup rating, I am in a quandary with this one.   I usually side with the incumbent in a tossup situation such as this, but incumbents in tossup races rarely have such dismal approval numbers.

Nevertheless, I think I'll stay true to my convention and rate this one for HaganÖ for now.   However, if the next poll gives Republicans the advantage again, don't be surprised to see this race flip to red before my 2014 election previews are complete.

Preliminary projection:  Weak DEM Hold

You can track this race throughout the 2014 election season here at Election Projection by visiting the North Carolina 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 11:41pm 01/15/14 :: link
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