I know, I know, we have a lot of posts about polling on the front page this morning. We’re five days out from a midterm, buddy. The news cycle is what it is.
Anyway, Democrats have more to worry about than Republicans do from this pair of whammies, one from Emerson and the other from Trafalgar. Both Ted Cruz and Andrew Gillum remain favorites to win, but Cruz is an incumbent and his state is waaaaay more favorable to his party than Gillum’s is to his. DeSantis coming back to beat Gillum would be a major upset; Beto coming back to beat Cruz would be upset-of-the-decade material.
The key number there is 50 percent for Cruz. As noted last night, the Republican is now polling at 50 percent or better in nearly every poll, strongly suggesting that a majority is in the bag and that the suspense now resides entirely in how close Beto can make it on Tuesday night in losing. So why is this poll even worth mentioning? Because: It’s the second in as many days to show Cruz’s lead down to three or four points. A UT poll released yesterday put him up by 3.6 after the month of October saw him reliably enjoying leads of six points or better. The risk here is that the tightening polls might give marginal Beto fans just enough hope for an upset that they decide to turn out on Tuesday instead of passing on a race they assumed was doomed. That’s the only way O’Rourke feasibly pulls the upset — he’s not going to flip Republican voters but conceivably he could swamp them with enough Democratic turnout.
Although Cruz-ites might respond, persuasively, that the tightening polls are actually good news for Cruz. If either of the two candidates need to worry about motivating voters, it’s the Republican. Betomaniacs are likely to be out in force regardless of what surveys say. It’s righties, believing the race is in the bag, who might stay home unless given a good reason not to do so. Well, the tight numbers in the final days are giving them that reason. Team Cruz should tout them at every campaign stop until Tuesday.
As for Florida, if the name “Trafalgar” rings a bell in the polling context it’s because they’re the outfit that predicted Trump’s Rust Belt upset in 2016 with eerie accuracy after most other pros had written the midwest off for Republicans. Here’s how they see Florida this morning:
Add in the leaners and you get Gillum 48.4, DeSantis 46.1. (The Senate race is tight too, with Bill Nelson at 49.4 and Rick Scott at 47.2.) That makes three of the last four polls that show the race within one or two points. Despite leading in the RCP average the entire way, Gillum has failed to put DeSantis away. In fact, his lead has been cut in half in the span of a week, dropping from an average of 5.8 points eight days ago to 2.9 today. That’s the glass-half-full view of the race: It’s close and it’s getting closer.
The glass-half-empty view is that, with the exception of a single poll that had him ahead, DeSantis’s ceiling seems to be around 46 percent whereas Gillum consistently polls better than that. In most polls he’s at 47 percent or better and touched as high as 51 a few days ago. DeSantis’s average vote share, meanwhile, is just 44.1. If DeSantis is about to surge ahead on Election Day, he may have to win late deciders by a wide, wide margin. Barring a last-minute ethics surprise that hurts Gillum, what reason is there to think he’s capable of that? If we were staring at a likely national red wave, you might reason that that could carry DeSantis past Gillum (barely). But we’re staring at a blue wave, at least in the House. If anyone’s likely to benefit from a last-minute partisan push, it’s Gillum.
That’s a bummer of a note to end on, though, so here’s one more from Emerson:
That’s two polls in two days showing Blackburn at 50 percent or better with comfortable leads of eight points or more. Looks like she’s finally put away Phil Bredesen after a scare. And if that’s true, it means the only way Democrats can actually flip the Senate is to sweep all six of the toss-up races and have Beto figure out a way to nudge past Cruz despite the latter having apparently locked down a majority. The odds of a Senate majority are so daunting for Democrats, in fact, that Nate Silver now expects that it would require a systematic error in the polls for them to have any chance of it on Tuesday night. That is, it just won’t be enough for the polls to be wrong in one or two battleground states in a way that benefits Democrats; they all have to be wrong, and all in the same direction. Which is possible but unlikely — the most probable scenario for it happening is if Democratic turnout ends up being historically high, with America’s pollsters having collectively underestimated how many liberals would show up to vote this fall. Silver gives it only a 15 percent chance of happening. Which is just about the same odds as Republicans have of holding the House, in fact.
Update: Here comes another poll. This now makes four of the last five in Florida in which DeSantis has trailed by only one or two points. He’s not licked yet…
CNN POLL CONDUCTED BY SSRS
FLORIDA LIKELY VOTERS
Choice for U.S. Senator
FLORIDA LIKELY VOTERS
Choice for Governor
TENNESSEE LIKELY VOTERS
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) November 1, 2018