It is time. Election Day is upon us ladies and gentlemen, and with that in mind, we’ve shifted our tossups to Lean Democratic or Lean Republican ratings. We do this because we feel it’s necessary to call one way or another on these key races. So, after much discussion from the team, here are those final changes. You can also listen to us explain our reasoning in our latest episode of Elections Weekly.
Republicans and Democrats Each Set to Flip Two Gubernatorial Seats this Cycle
Before we even shift our four remaining tossup governors races, we already have Democrats flipping two states and Republicans flipping one. We have Democrats heavily favored in both Massachusetts and Maryland, flipping both with them rated as Safe Democratic. Then, last Thursday we shifted Nevada to Leans Republican, believing Republicans are now slightly favored to flip that state. Now of our final four shifts, only one state sees a flip.
We are shifting Arizona and Wisconsin to Leans Republican and Oregon and Kansas to Leans Democratic. In Arizona, polling has shown a small, but consistent lead for Republican nominee Kari Lake. Even with how controversial Lake has been, Democratic nominee Katie Hobbs has played the race so safe, she’s been unable to capitalize on Lake’s more controversial statements. That, combined with Lake’s lead in the polling averages, has us choosing her as the favorite going into election night. In the end, it’s a fundamentals play in Arizona, and the fundamentals favor Lake.
The same can be said with Wisconsin. While incumbent Democrat Tony Evers’s approvals are not in the gutter, they’ve been middling. In Morning Consult’s polls, Evers has never crossed the 50% mark. He’s been close before, but never at or really above the 50% approval margin that incumbent governors normally need to reach to survive a wave election. Republican Tim Michels also seems to have the momentum behind him, as most Republicans seem to have in Wisconsin if polling is to be believed. Michels has lead, narrowly, in five of the last eight polls of this race, giving him a small advantage in the average. Combined with Senator Ron Johnson pulling away from Mandela Barnes in the Senate race, the environment favors Michels. For these reasons, the race is now Leans Republican in our eyes.
For Kansas we’re banking on one clear thing in this rating. Incumbent Democrat Laura Kelly is popular. Her approval rating averages around 55-57%, and even in wave years, its hard to knock out popular incumbent governors. That’s not to say incumbent governors never lose: an average of two have lost in each midterm from 2002 on. But we don’t see Kelly joining that cast. Polling, while incredibly slim, has been good for Kelly. There’s also the issue of far-right independent Dennis Pyle swiping votes from GOP nominee Derek Schmidt. If polls are to believed, Pyle is taking in an average of 3-5%, with all of those voters almost certainly coming from Schmidt. That’s a big hit in this close race, and one that can kill Schmidt’s chances. We believe it does, and these three reasons are why we’ve moved the race to Leans Democratic.
Finally, there’s Oregon. This was the hardest decision for our team, but we’re leaning on the fundamentals in our decision. In the end, with polling seemingly showing a late collapse for independent Betsy Johnson, we see Oregon returning to its close-but-no-cigar form for the GOP in governor races. Even with incumbent Democrat Kate Brown’s approvals in the gutter (-16), the fact is she’s not running here. And that may be just enough to pull Democratic nominee Tina Kotek over the line. Republican Christine Drazan has ran as good of a campaign as a Republican can run in Oregon. But we don’t think it will be enough. We have Oregon at Leans Democratic.
Republicans Favored to Return Mitch McConnell to Senate Majority Leader, Georgia TBD
We are predicting that Republicans will take back control of the senate, by holding on to Pennsylvania and flipping Nevada’s senate seat. We also predict that Democrats hold on to Arizona, while we believe that Georgia is most likely heading to a runoff once again. We’re predicting a 51–48 advantage for Republicans.
Starting with the easiest to explain, we believe Georgia is heading to a runoff once again. We have it rated as Leans Runoff. What this means is we think the most likely scenario is a runoff, but the odds of it happening are less than 50%. If there were to be a winner outright on the night, we believe that Herschel Walker would be that winner. Even with everything that has happened to his campaign, Walker has kept this close to Warnock. With Brian Kemp probably helping him in some regard, if a winner comes out on election night, we think its Walker. We think a Warnock outright win is the least likely scenario.
In Nevada, we’re following our pathway like we did in the Governors race. While we think Republican Adam Laxalt will slightly underperform Republican governor nominee Joe Lombardo, we don’t think it’ll be enough for Laxalt to lose. Nevada has been a shiny apple that Republicans haven’t been able to claim in recent cycles. 2016, 2018 and 2020 all saw close misses. But we predict that 2022 will be the year Republicans win their first federal race in Nevada since 2012. The early vote firewall in Clark is just not enough for Democrats this year, and we also predict independents in the state will go hard against Democratic candidates in Nevada this cycle. With this in mind, we predict Nevada flips to the GOP – it Leans Republican.
In Arizona, this is very much a fundamentals play. Mark Kelly, the Democratic money-printing machine himself, has stayed ahead of Republican Blake Masters from basically start to finish. While Masters has tightened the polling average in the last weeks, it’s not enough for us to move away from Kelly. Masters’s biggest issue is not that he is unpopular, but that he is still unknown. And compare that to the popular Kelly, it’s a blow to his chances in this seat. A Masters win wouldn’t be the most surprising thing that could happen, but we do not predict that it happens. We’re shifting this race to Lean Democratic.
Finally, Pennsylvania. In what is probably our most controversial senate rating, we have Republicans holding this seat. This race has gone through twists and turns, but quite honestly, we’re right where I expected to be. The polling average is even as we head into election night and this is the toughest race for prognosticators to call. But we call our races and our call is that Mehmet Oz pulls this one out. Questions about the type polls are fair, but its hard to deny- the momentum has swung in favor of Oz the past month. And that has hit the right time of the election. With the momentum at his back, we believe that propels Oz to a close, but sure victory over John Fetterman. We’re shifting it to Leans Republican.
Republicans Flip the House, Predicted to Gain 24 Seats.
Finally, we predict that Republicans will flip the House, with a majority of 236 seats to 199 for Democrats.
We already had Republicans at 226 with our ratings before we eliminated our final 18 House tossups. Here are those 18 tossups and their new ratings.
- CA-13: Tossup to Leans Republican: We think the Central Valley in California is going to have a rough showing for Democrats this cycle. We already have David Valadao surviving in California’s 22nd, and we now have Republicans flipping the open CA-13. While Adam Gray is a very good candidate for Democrats in this seat, we think the environment carries Republican John Duarte over. We also see Republicans winning this seat in the Governor’s race, backing our prediction that the seat flips.
- CT-05: Tossup to Leans Democratic: One of our tougher choices this cycle, we see incumbent Democrat Jahana Hayes narrowly surviving a tough challenge from Republican George Logan. Logan is a perfect Republican for this seat, and this environment may yet see a rebound for New England Republicans. But we don’t think that reaches Logan, and that Hayes narrowly holds on to this seat.
- IL-17: Tossup to Leans Democratic: Illinois is a state we’ve been soft on for Republicans this year. A substandard top of the ticket is hurtingdown ballot, and while the trends are good in this western Illinois seat, we think the new gerrymander holds this seat for the Democrats. This open seat is going to be close, but we see Democrat Eric Sorenson holding onto this seat against the wave. Close but no cigar is the phrase once again for Republicans in this area.
- IN-01: Tossup to Leans Republican: Imagine saying 10 years ago that this NW Indiana based seat would be even at all competitive. But that’s the time period we live in now. Thanks to a dual combination of Gary bleeding population and white working class shifts, this seat is competitive. In fact, it’s competitive enough that Republicans took heat from partisans that they did not gerrymander this seat. The response from Republicans was that they felt they didn’t have too. And with their nominee in Jennifer Ruth-Green, they may be right. Ruth-Green has been the surprise of the cycle, continually out-raising incumbent Democrat Frank Mrvan. This seat just has a real big momentum vibe for Ruth-Green, and we see Republicans flipping this seat.
- ME-02: Tossup to Leans Democratic: This was another hard one, but we see Democrat Jared Golden barely surviving his second re-election bid. This is going to be a tight race on election night, no doubt. And for how much we’ve talked about fundamentals, this is going against them. Especially since we see GOP nominee for Governor Paul LePage winning this seat by a good margin, even as he loses statewide. But, we think Golden’s personal label keeps him alive for at least one more cycle. The lack of a federal statewide race in Maine helps him this year in our eyes and localizes things a bit more in Maine. That only helps Golden, and we see that keeping him in office.
- MI-07: Tossup to Leans Republican: We believe incumbent Democrat Elissa Slotkin is an impressive candidate, no doubt. But we do think the environment narrowly takes her out this cycle. This seat was so narrow in 2020 that it would take a real effort from Michigan Democrats to hold this seat. Admittedly they’ve come very close to that, but we think it just won’t be enough. Republican Tom Barrett wins this seat, very narrowly.
- MI-08: Tossup to Leans Democratic: Another seat that is possibly on borrowed time for Democrats due to trends, but it stays in their hands for now. Dan Kildee is an impressive candidate, and most GOP insiders have been unimpressed with their nominee Paul Junge. While it’s easy to see this race being close, its harder to see Kildee losing. We have him favored in the end, and that he holds on to this seat for now.
- MN-02: Tossup to Leans Democratic: Minnesota has been one of the more interesting places for congressional races in the Trump era. With shifting bases in Minnesota, along with the rise of the Legalize Marijuana Now Party, Minnesota has been chaotic. And the second district is no different. There will be a LMN candidate on the ballot, hurting Democrat incumbent Angie Craig. But for the second straight cycle, that candidate is dead. However, that didn’t stop nearly 6% of ballots in 2020 going to the LMN candidate. We don’t think that happens this year, which is why we have Craig favored. But if the LMN candidate does hit those numbers in this environment, this prediction will be a swing and a miss from us.
- NV-01: Tossup to Leans Republican: It’s been a rough month of polling for incumbent Democrat Dina Titus. Titus was tied in the high quality NYT/Sienna poll with GOP candidate Mark Robertson. And a recent poll from Emerson showed her down 12. With the on-the-ground feeling in Nevada too, Titus’s position feel precarious. We have her losing this race, giving Republicans three of the four seats in Nevada in our predictions. If that comes true, its a major victory for Republicans in the Silver State.
- NY-17 and NY-19: Tossup to Leans Democratic: In the interest of space, we’re keeping both of these Hudson Valley seats in the same analysis. We think that the white, high turned, highly educated base of Democrats in these seats keeps them in Democratic hands. It will be especially close in the 19th, but we think Marc Molinaro narrowly loses again. In the 17th, it will end much closer than it should be for Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney in this Biden+10 seat. But we predict he pulls it out in the end, thanks to the heavily Democratic vote in the Westchester County portion.
- OH-01 Tossup to Leans Republican: This is a seat that is on borrowed time for Republicans. The Cincinnati area is no longer friendly to Republicans, but we have them holding on to it for possibly one last time. Incumbent Republican Steve Chabot came back, and this may be a very close race for him. But him coming back saves the GOP in this seat in our eyes. Democrat Greg Landsman will get close, but just not close enough.
- OH-09: Tossup to Leans Republican: Back to the fundamentals – this was a tough race for us to call. Even with the trends in this seat, GOP candidate JR Majewski is just not a good candidate, and that’s made for a tougher than expected race against incumbent Democrat Marcy Kaptur. In the end, it may come down to how JD Vance performs statewide. It looked shaky there for a second, but recent averages show Vance at least matching Trump statewide. That would see Vance win this district, and allow him to pull over Majewski. In this rapidly GOP trending seat, we predict that’s what will occur. Even with all the problems, Majewski pulls it out.
- OR-06: Tossup to Leans Democratic: One of the more surprising races to reach the tossup board this cycle, we do have Democrats pulling it out here. Polling has had this Biden+13 race close, as have internals from both sides. But we think fundamentals pull it out for Democrats in the end here. Democrat Andrea Salinas holds on to this seat, but by a much tighter margin than she should.
- PA-08 and PA-17: Tossup to Leans Republican: Two very hard seats to decide between, but we see Republicans pulling it out in both of these seats. In the 8th, we think the clock strikes midnight on Matt Cartwright in this GOP trending NE-PA seat. He’s survived so far, but this environment kicks him out in the end. In the 17th, if Conor Lamb had stayed in this seat, his incumbency would probably see Democrats favored here. But in an open seat, this becomes a generic R vs generic D seat. And here we predict that favors Republicans.
- RI-02: Tossup to Leans Republican: A New England House Republican will return this cycle. And we think it comes in the form of moderate GOP candidate Allan Fung. The mayor of Cranston has run a perfect campaign for Republicans in Rhode Island. And in this environment, that helps him over the line in this open seat.
- WA-08: Tossup to Leans Republican: Finally, we see Republicans flipping back this suburban seat in Washington. Two reasons behind this decision. First, Republicans usually do slightly better than the primary numbers in the general. Since the combined Democratic vote in this seat in the primary didn’t reach 50%, that helps GOP nominee Matt Larkin. Secondly, we expect GOP senate nominee Tiffany Smiley to win this district in her campaign. It won’t nearly be enough to win of course, but it’ll be enough to help Larkin.
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