I tend to ignore internal polls because they’re (usually) self-serving but this one caught my eye because it jibes with something the NYT reported a few days ago. To all appearances, judging from the public polling, Missouri is the tightest Senate race in the country. Josh Hawley leads by an average of … 0.2 points. The last four polls have gone Hawley +3, McCaskill +3, tie, and Hawley +1. Gonna be down to the wire on election night!
Won’t it? Here’s that NYT report, based on conversations with consultants from both parties:
[T]here’s a sense among Republicans that, among Democratic-held Senate seats, they are virtually certain to pick up North Dakota and Missouri; Florida leans slightly their way; and Indiana and Montana are very much on the table.
Democratic officials concede their odds of winning North Dakota are long. And their optimism from September about taking over the Senate? Faded. But they are not ready to write off Missouri and they dispute the Republican thinking about Florida.
The Democratic reaction there surprised me almost as much as the Republican assessment did. Saying that they’re not ready to write off the state implies that McCaskill is indeed trailing based on the information they have and that it’s by a wide enough margin that pulling the plug might be in the discussion. How can that be when Hawley is ahead by 0.2 points?
This Hawley internal poll gives us a clue. Perhaps the race has changed of late, not just in Republicans’ data but in Democrats’ too.
Hawley, the Missouri attorney general, topped McCaskill, the state’s two-term senator, 49 percent to 42 percent, with 5 percent undecided and a collection of third party candidates garnering 4 percent combined.
The Hawley campaign credits the explosive confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh with helping the Republican nominee establish what it believes is a durable lead heading into the final weeks of the midterm election campaign.
“This lead has held firm since the vote to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court,” Hawley pollsters Wes Anderson and Kyle McGehrin said in a memorandum detailing the survey.
The secret ingredients: A 54-percent approval rating for Trump in red Missouri plus, of course, the Kavanaugh effect, which is propelling Republicans onward to victory in Senate races across the country.
That might help explain how a dead heat in Florida turned into a three-point lead for Democrat Bill Nelson after the dust from the Kavanaugh brawl settled. It might also explain this alarming new data out of Montana, where Matt Rosendale is trying to oust Democrat Jon Tester:
Since the start of July, Montana polls had consistently showed a three-point race — until now. And yet, if the Kavanaugh effect is backfiring on Republicans, how to explain Heitkamp’s disintegration in North Dakota? Or the tightening race in Indiana? Or evidence of a Dean Heller surge in Nevada? Or Cruz holding off Betomania in Texas? Maybe there is no real “Kavanaugh effect.” Maybe voters in these states felt strongly about the Kavanaugh hearing but, in the end, they’re voting the way they are for unrelated reasons. Which would make sense: Logically you would expect that the people most likely to have followed the Kavanaugh matter closely and to have a very strong opinion about it are people who are politically active and probably highly partisan. If there’s a “Kavanaugh effect,” I suspect, we’re more likely to see it show up in turnout on Election Day than in the polling numbers.
In the meantime, enjoy this CNN story about McCaskill’s new radio ad, in which voters are assured that she’s not one of those “crazy Democrats.” Which Democrats would those be, senator? Name names.