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SSP's Competitive Senate Race Ratings (4/8/08)

by: James L.

Mon Apr 14, 2008 at 8:45 AM EDT

Our rating system is patterned after the familiar seven-tier system used by fellow prognosticators such as CQ and Cook.  Here's what we've got for the Senate race scene so far:

Likely D Lean D Tossup Lean R Likely R
VA (Open) LA (Landrieu)
NM (Open)
CO (Open)
NH (Sununu)
AK (Stevens)
MN (Coleman)
ME (Collins)
MS (Wicker)
OR (Smith)

All other races are considered "safe" for the incumbent party. However, the following races are on SSP's list of Races to Watch:

     KY (McConnell)
     NE (Open)
     NJ (Lautenberg)
     NC (Dole)
     OK (Inhofe)
     TX (Cornyn)

Any of these races could earn a competitive rating given the right series of events for the challengers.

Feel free to post your take in the comments.

James L. :: SSP's Competitive Senate Race Ratings (4/8/08)
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You are going to see Rice's
race in Oklahoma move up. He has reportedly hit the $1 million mark, and Inhofe has become more unpopular in Oklahoma than most other Republican politicans in the state.

Gotta disagree strongly with 2 or 3 of those......
I don't think it's accurate at all to call NH a toss-up.  Check out and you'll see 13 polls by 5 different pollsters over the past 13 months, with Shaheen leading in 12 including the most recent polls by all 5 outfits and by double-digit margins in all but a few.  Shaheen has a clear and consistent lead over Sununu, and that race accurately must be called leans Dem.

Also, I think polling and professional commentary on Minnesota and Alaska support calling those races toss-ups rather than lean Rethug.

On the flip side, kudos to you for calling Maine leans Rethug.  I love Tom Allen and hope he can turn his name rec and money into a close race, but all the polling has Collins dominating and that can't be ignored.  But a lot of people want to call that a top-tier race anyway.  It may yet become that, but it's not now.

43, male, Indian-American, Democrat, VA-10

I agree with...
NH to lean Dem and MN to toss-up...I do think AK should stay in lean rep for now, just because of the republican tilt of the state, how long Stevens been in office, and how new Begich is as a candidate (considering he hasn't even officially filed yet, I believe?).

[ Parent ]
That's just his way of doing it - He files late
And everyone who is a good politician announces their exploratory committee first, then announces their campaign.  You need to suck the most earned media out of it as you can.  He's going to run though.  

[ Parent ]
This seems like a conservative approach to me.
After the 1Q fundraising numbers come out, I'll post my predictions for the House and the Senate.  

Compiled fundraising data from SSP
I compiled the previously front-paged data from this site over at Election Inspection and just published it today. I still have a couple more to add from the comments thread of the most recent posting (vs. Mothra!)

I've also got a page listing all the latest Senate polls (including today's Louisiana poll showing Landrieu with a big lead).

Delaware Liberal - biggest and best blog in Delaware.

[ Parent ]
I take the numbers straight from the FEC report.  Problem is, these guys only report on the last day or so.  A lot should pop up today and tomorrow.  

[ Parent ]
Yeah, I know, it's a tough state, but we came close in CD-1 and the governor's race last year, trends not unlike what we saw in Montana before we started winning big there.  Besides, we have a great candidate in the race and there's no reason not to put it alongside Nebraska and Oklahoma.

If I was doing this, I would have probably put NH into the lean Dem category... it's more than a tossup, nearly every poll has us ahead, and its pretty clear that Shaheen has edge here. Minnesota has been, in my opinion, a pure toss-up for awhile now. A slightly blue state, a slightly popular republican state, and a well funded challenger, along with the fact that polls have shown it as a tossup for months now, would tell me that this is at this point a tossup. Similar with Alaska... even if it's deep-red and our candidate hasn't officially announced... the polls show it tied or Begich ahead, and getting your house raided by the FBI doesn't look good for anyone. Also, I'd rate MS-Sen as "lean Rep", if only for having Musgrove ahead comfortably in 1 poll, at least merits some distinguishment that his chances are decent at this point.

Seems right
I might call North Carolina "likely R" as well.  

I would pretty much
move it all to the left. I would put both NM and NH in Likely D and CO in Lean D. MN and AK are Tossup's and ME, MS and Or and Lean R. Likely R is NE and TX I think.

I'm feeling
a little bullish about Kentucky, for some reason. Lunsford is a tool, but he has the money and name rec to compete. I don't think it's 'likely' yet, but I'm eager to see some polls.

[ Parent ]
Lunsford will get destroyed
If he is the candidate.

He has already spent many millions of dollars of his money in two races to become governor and lost big both times. He is HATED but about half of the Democrats, so much they may not even vote for him. McConnell is going to outspend the canidate no matter who it is and so someone who is at least well liked will stand a far better chance. Oh and someone who was not McConnell-lite would help.

It is really sad that Crit or someone big didn't run. They would have gotten so much outside help. Why didn't Chandler run? He would be nationally known if he took out McConnell.

It pisses me off but we just failed recruiting-wise there. Same with North Carolina and to a lesser extent Oregon.  

[ Parent ]
I may be in the distinct minority here
But barring a tier 1 candidate like Chandler, Luallen or Stumbo, I say just give Lunsford a shot at it for once. He seems to be a perennial candidate for the Democratic races, blows lots of money, but can't attract the support just quite of liberal Democrats - note however that this is in the PRIMARY. In the General, at the very least he'll force McConnell to have a serious race on his hands, and who knows, maybe he'll actually consolidate the conservative Democratic party (if he can get liberals to vote for him) and end up winning in November. If not, then Mitch McConnell would be unable to filibuster or raise money for other incumbents and instead be tied in Kentucky. Not the worst thing in the world now?

[ Parent ]
I agree with this
Leave McConnell to sweat and use DSCC funds on more worthy challengers elsewhere that need the cash i.e. Noreiga.

[ Parent ]
But he is hated by conservative Democrats too
He skipped a big Democratic Party dinner to go to the UAE! He runs a corrupt and unethical businesses.

I just don't think he will make it a race with McConnell. If we are going to be spending money electing a not so good Democrat I think NC would be a far better target.

[ Parent ]
I honeslty doubt a couple things
First, that most Conservative Democrats, other than party insiders, actually know that he runs an allegedly "corrupt and unethical business", or that he ever went to the UAE. Secondly, McConnell has no credibility on the arena of ethics, he'd be creamed and labeled as a hypocrite if he ever mentioned it.

2ndly, Hagen is probably the best we're going to do in a state like North Carolina. It'll be a long time before we get a guy as good as John Edwards elected there - and yes, even when his record was less progressive than his campaign suggested (although its important to note that these were much more conservative times). By the way, Hagen is only 13 points behind Dole in the latest Rasmussen poll, which is better than Allen fares in Maine. Perhaps we could move this to "Likely Republican"?

[ Parent ]
Rasmussen released a poll that shows Landrieu demolishing Kennedy. She's up 55%-39%. Her favorables are 65%-32%; Kennedy's are 51%-42%. I'd probably wait to see another poll that has her lead outside the margin of error before moving it out of 'lean D' territory, though.

Also, I've posted this link before, but it's a pre-emptive strike against anyone coming in and saying "oh no, Landrieu is dooooomed because all the black people are gone from Louisiana." Not true; Louisiana lost more white people than African-Americans in the 2000 to 2006 period, and many of the African-Americans gone from New Orleans are now in Baton Rouge or Shreveport, which is part of what's buoying our chances in LA-06 and LA-04.

not to mention Lafayette
but the what the state party has to do is stop ignoring black voters in North Louisiana. They've never put in a huge effort to get higher registration and mobilize these voters because they the party machine in the 9th ward. The result is very low registration among black voters and even lower turnout. State Senator Lydia Jackson, D- Shreveport, has already been doing this very successfully in Caddo Parish, which is one of the reasons it's been trending more Democratic. Between Shreveport-Bossier City, Monroe-West Monroe, and Alexandria-Pineville, (I know we have a lot of twin cities in North Louisiana), the State Democratic Party could easily get registered and get mobilized another block of 50,000 new voters, reliable Democrats, especially with the LA-RP mostly working on issues of concern to wealthy whites.

P.S. Did anybody see how corrupt state Senate Derrick Shephard, D-New Orleans, who came up short against Karen Carter when running against Jefferson, and who has now been indicted, just sponsered a state law that would ban people from wearing saggy pants, and it's already got the endorsement of several state senators. It's pathetic.  

Call no man happy until he is dead-Aeschylus

[ Parent ]
Who is running agaist Jefferson?
I haven't heard anything. Is Carter running again?

He has been indicted already and he doesn't have a big opponent?  

[ Parent ]
He has caught a number of breaks regarding
trial having evidence tossed out because they were illegal searches.  Don't get me wrong, I want him out of office too.  I just don't really care beyond that.  

[ Parent ]
That is absolutely a toss-up, every poll shows it that way and Franken outraises Coleman every quarter now.  

alaska i am torn between toss-up and leans gop.

nh is leans democrat.

maine and oregon are tricky, do we rate them for where they are now or where we think the race will be come election time.  like in october, those races will be lean Repub, possibly toss-up at that point.  If the election were today, both would win easily.

The ratings...
should reflect the Dem's chances of winning IF the election was held today.  If you rank the races according to October, it's hard to say because anything can happen in the next 6 months.

I would say taking a conservative approach to the ranks is preferable because it's still very early in the game.

For races like ME and OR, I like the LikelyR ranking because we are running against incumbents.  Secondly, neither Allen nor Merkley nor Novick have polled well against Collins and Smith.  On the other hand, the states are blue states and if our challengers can have solid fundraising quarters, the race should tighten up as time progresses.  For now, LikelyR fits right.  

- I agree with BlueOkie that OK will eventually hit the radar because Rice is running a brilliant campaign and hitting Inhofe where it hurts.  

- I also like the AK- LeansR rating bceause again, even though the poll says it's a Toss-Up, running against Stevens with baggage is still no easy task.  Finally, given the state's conservative nature, it should stay in LeansR for now.

[ Parent ]
Merkley and Novick both polled fairly well
in late 2007, with Novick within 6 at one point. Very low name ID for either candidate at that point though. Have to agree the general heat matchups are fairly out of date in OR. Hopefully one more before the primary next month.

[ Parent ]
If this is where the race stands today . . .
I'd move NH and OR over one spot. Once Oregon has their primary, should Merkley win, I'd move it over one space as well (there has been little polling on this race recently).

I would put NC on the big board in the likely R column today and add OK, TX, and MAYBE KY before election day. Kleeb rocks and his fundraising report does make me feel a bit more optimistic but I am still not sold on this race in NE at this point.

26, Male, Democrat, TX-26

I meant to say I'd move NH and MN over one spot as of today. I explained my stance on Oregon in the next sentence.

26, Male, Democrat, TX-26

[ Parent ]
My ratings
In terms of predicted margin of victory.

very safe = margin > 20%
safe = 20% > margin > 10%
weak = 10% > margin > 5%
barely = 5% > margin > 0%
toss-up = no clear read either way

Alaska: toss-up
Oregon: weak R
Idaho: barely R/toss-up
Montana: very safe D
Wyoming: very safe R
Wyoming (special): safe R
Colorado: toss-up/barely D
New Mexico: weak D/safe D
South Dakota: safe D
Nebraska: barely R
Kansas: safe R
Oklahoma: weak R/barely R
Texas: weak R
Minnesota: barely R/toss-up
Iowa: very safe D
Arkansas: very safe D
Louisiana: weak D
Illinois: safe D
Michigan: very safe D
Kentucky: weak R
Tennessee: safe R
Mississippi: barely R/toss-up
Alabama: safe R
Georgia: safe R/weak R
South Carolina: very safe R/safe R
North Carolina: weak R
Virginia: safe D
West Virginia: safe D
Delaware: very safe D
New Jersey: safe D
Rhode Island: very safe D
Massachusetts: weak D/safe D
New Hampshire: barely D/weak D
Maine: safe R/weak R

I want to see more action from Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, and Mississippi.

party: Democratic, ideology: moderate, district: CT-01

This post gels something I've thought for a while: I don't like the current five-column system.
I don't think it attempts to indicate or illuminate the most useful information possible.  What it does indicate, it indicates incorrectly.  The entire "if the election were held today" mind-exercise is kindof bogus, because both candidates know the election is not being held today.  There's a reason so many races close into tossup at the end, and it's because the challenger knows he doesn't have to garner his votes until November, so he doesn't need to be polling at 51% in April.

I think this system would be better:

Strong D Advantage     Slight D Advantage    No Advantage     Slight R Advantage     Strong R Advantage.

Because what that system attempts to indicate is who appears right now to have the advantage for November, factoring in all the eventualities the campaign might bring.  It also doesn't attempt to indicate "who would win the election if it were held today", which is a completely useless barometer.  There is not nearly as much value in knowing "who would win the election if it were held today" (duh, the incumbent), as there is in knowing "considering the amount of time left in the campaign, who appears to have the advantage right now to win in November."

A change to that system would do several things.  In the old system, early in the season the incumbents are all piled up in the Likely column, where they stay until about September.    The new system would move a lot of incumbents into the Slight category earlier on, because it wouldn't rely on the false barometer of "how would the challenger do in an election held today".  It also would involve less movement between columns; or at least, it would involve less of the predictable late-season drift into Tossup, and the movements it would involve would be actually representing changes in the state of the campaign, not just the universal late-stage closing.  In my system, you'd see considerably more challengers moving from Slight Incumbent Advantage to Strong Incumbent Advantage, in those cases when the challenge fails to materialize.  That movement almost never happens in the other system, because the threshold for getting listed as Lean is so artificially high anyway.

Anyway, this is about to hit diary length, and maybe it will be one soon.  But the Lean/Likely system has some real, glaring weaknesses.  Being forced to rank in this way 1) over-advantages incumbents, 2) turns out to be an awful predictor anyway (as evidenced by the large number of "ratings adjustments" required in September), and 3) is based on an obviously weak criterion, the ridiculous and counter-factual "if the election were held today".  That's the wrong thing to be tallying and it doesn't illuminate as much about the campaign and election as it could.

28, gay guy, Democrat, CA-08

I fully agree
That is why I hate ranking Maine and Oregon.  I think both really only have a slight advantage, but that advantage doesnt mean they will win, it just means they have certain advantages that should help.  Maine and Oregon being likely Republican just bugs me because both races will obviously tighten and will be very close, especially with Obama turnout.

[ Parent ]
too conservative....
Alaska - Tossup to Lean D; latest poll shows it very close

CO - Lean D.  Pollster's trend has it at a 7.1 % lead for Udall.  On 12/31, Udall had a big fundraising edge as well....$3.6 million to $1.5 million

LA - Likely D.  Landrieu has a huge lead in latest poll, and trend is her way (only 3 polls....). On 12/31, Landrieu had $4 million COH, Kennedy less than half a million.

ME - Disappointing, but I agree with you.  Allen doesn't seem to be catching on in the polls.  Still, he is raising decent money - on 12/31, he had $2.5 million COH, to Collins $3.9

MN - Tossup.  Polls are jumping all over.  Franken is raising big bucks, as is Coleman

NH - Likely D.  Shaheen has big leads in every poll. Pollster trend has it at a 12 point Shaheen lead.

NM - Likely D.  Udall has big leads against both opponents AND he has a bit more money

VA- I agree, likely D

You can take New Jersey off your list to watch and list it as a safe D.  Polls often jump around before the election which I love because Republicans waste a lot of money on a lost cause like Governor Keane's son.  But in the end, the Dem wins by a big margin.  Lautenberg will win by a landslide.  But if you think you can entice the Repubs into wasting some money, be my guest

No argument from me
I think you could make a decent argument that AK is a tossup but it is probably safer to place it as Lean R for now. I also agree with CO and NH for the moment but I think they will move to Lean D before the end of summer - the only reason Sununu still has an outside chance is because he is an incumbent.

Udall numbers announced:

Democrat Mark Udall today announced that he had raised a campaign-record $1.45 million for his Senate campaign in Q1, leaving him with $4,236,532 cash-on-hand.

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