Presidential Ratings Changes – Eric Cunningham
It’s hard to believe, but polling has only become more dire for Republicans since our previous ratings update. Polls have now shown Biden up by as many as 15 points, and troubling state-level polls in states like Alaska and Montana have signaled major panic for Republicans. Because of this, we have a slew of updates:
- Colorado – Likely D > Safe D
- Virginia – Likely D > Safe D
- Michigan – Lean D > Likely D
- Pennsylvania – Tossup > Lean D
- Wisconsin – Tossup > Lean Dem
- Georgia – Lean R > Tossup
- Texas – Lean R > Tossup
- ME-02 – Lean R > Tossup
- Alaska – Safe R > Likely R
- Montana – Safe R > Likely R
- Missouri – Safe R > Likely R
- Utah – Safe R > Likely R
Let’s start with the easy ones. Colorado and Virginia have been seemingly abandoned by national Republicans, and it’s easy to see why. Trump has consistently trailed by near double-digits in both states, and in Colorado it might be closer to 20. Republicans aren’t making plays here and it’s hard to picture a scenario they win. These states shift to Safe Democratic.
Among the competitive states, we’re shifting some of the historic “Blue Wall” states left. Michigan appears increasingly out of reach; we’re moving to Likely Democratic to match our Senate rating. In Pennsylvania, Monmouth, an A+ pollster from 538, showed a lead of near double-digits for Biden. What little polling Wisconsin has had shows a lead for him as well. Both states move to Leans Democratic.
We’re also moving three others to Tossup. Polling in Georgia and Texas has consistently shown a tight race. Georgia is not a surprise, as we’ve written about long-term trends there before. We’re skeptical that Texas is truly a state that can flip, but the polls here simply can’t be ignored. Additionally, Maine’s 2nd congressional moves here as well. Trump won the district’s electoral vote resoundingly in 2016, but it doesn’t appear to be anywhere near a sure thing this time around.
Finally, we’re moving four states to Likely Republican: Alaska, Montana, Missouri, and Utah. Given Biden’s enormous lead, it’s not impossible for several strongly Republican states to become more competitive. These states are all fairly elastic and have had at least some recent polling indicating a competitive race. These are not states Democrats would be likely to target, but they are states that could be considered more vulnerable than the Safe seats. Of these, Utah might actually be the easiest target: Trump only received 45% of the vote there in 2016.
As it stands, these ratings would deliver Joe Biden 278 electoral votes and Donald Trump 125, with an additional 135 as tossups. 270 electoral votes are needed to win the presidential election.
Senate Ratings Changes – Adam Trencher and Kraz Greinetz
- Montana (R) – Lean R > Tossup
We are moving Montana to a tossup at the Senate level because the polling has become undeniable. Incumbent Republican Steve Daines has led in only one poll against Governor Steve Bullock. While we recognize that Montana is still a red state on the presidential level, Bullock has been able to hold onto significant crossover support until this point. We recognize that many candidates have seen their crossover appeal fade down the stretch, and so we want to emphasize the race may change as we get closer to Election Day.
That being said, there are reasons to be bullish on Bullock’s chances. First, his approval as governor is sky high because of the Coronavirus pandemic. A few months ago, observers expected this to fade quickly, but with COVID-19 not going anywhere anytime soon, this bump may last through the fall. It is also worth noting that in general, the disappointing candidates who faded down the stretch (Phil Bredesen, Linda Lingle, Ted Strickland, etc.), tended to be ex-governors. Sitting governors like Bullock tend to have more resilient polling, as exemplified by Rick Scott in 2018 or Mel Carnahan in 2000. It is also worth noting that while many candidates in recent years have fallen victim to polarization, many have not. For every Evan Bayh, there is a Joe Manchin. For every Kelly Ayotte, there is a Marco Rubio.
Additionally, the current environment boosts Bullock’s chances. Polls show the Presidential race in Montana is much closer than 2016, reducing the amount of crossover support Bullock would need. In fact, most polls show Bullock outperforming Biden anywhere from 9-19 points. If the environment in November is anywhere near as blue as it is now, Bullock has a fighting chance at the upset.
Lastly, Bullock’s vote share in polls continues to be around 47% in most polls. Polls of the 2018 race generally underestimated Republican Matt Rosendale’s vote share, but they were remarkably accurate in assessing Jon Tester’s eventual percentage (50.3%). A similar phenomenon may occur here. According to Public Policy Polling (PPP), undecideds in their Senate poll, which Bullock led 46-44, broke for Trump by 37%. Bullock likely needs 48-49% to ensure a victory, given Montana’s fairly robust number of third-party voters. In short, the undecideds are likely to split heavily for Daines, but Bullock’s percentage is high enough in most polls, and there are just enough undecided Biden voters, that he may be able to eke out a win without needing to convert many more Trump voters.
House Ratings Changes – Harrison Lavelle
- New Jersey-3 (D) Andy Kim – Lean D > Likely D
- Oklahoma-5 (D) Kendra Horn – Lean R > Tossup
- Indiana-5 (R) Open Seat – Lean R > Tossup
- Pennsylvania-1 (R) Brian Fitzpatrick – Likely R > Lean R
- Michigan-8 (D) Elissa Slotkin – Lean D > Likely D
- New Jersey-5 (D) Josh Gottheimer – Likely D > Safe D
- California-25 (R) Mike Garcia – Lean R > Tossup
- Texas-10 (R) Michael McCaul – Lean R > Tossup
- Alaska-At Large (R) Don Young – Likely R > Lean R
- Kansas-2 (R) Steve Watkins – Likely R > Lean R
- North Carolina-8 (R) Richard Hudson – Likely R > Lean R
- New Hampshire-1 (D) Chris Pappas – Lean D > Likely D
- Texas-25 (R) Roger Williams – Safe R > Likely R
- Texas-24 (R) Open – Lean R > Tossup
- Texas-6 (R) Ron Wright – Safe R > Likely R
- Texas-3 (R) Van Taylor – Safe R > Likely R
There are a lot of changes to our ratings to go over here, and it’s not going to be easy to do in written format. I will be discussing them tonight on the first episode of our new weekly show The Report, which will be airing tonight at 7:00 eastern on our YouTube channel.