You ready for this? Not one, not two, not three, not four, but five separate Senate races are within two points in the RCP poll of polls as I write this at 6 p.m. ET, six days out from Election Day.
Arizona: Sinema by 0.8.
Florida: Nelson by 2.0.
Indiana: Donnelly by 1.0.
Missouri: Hawley by 2.0.
Nevada: Heller by 2.0.
To round it off, Jon Tester leads by 4.2 points in blood red Montana, although the libertarian third-party candidate in the race just endorsed Republican Matt Rosendale. Is that contest now also effectively within two, then?
The painful X factor for Democrats in all of this is Heidi Heitkamp’s washout in North Dakota. Assuming she loses, which is all but certain, the GOP starts next Tuesday night with 52 Senate seats. In that case, even if Democrats won all six of the elections I just named, they still wouldn’t flip the Senate. Montana, Missouri, Indiana, and Florida would all be “holds” and Arizona and Nevada would be pick-ups, producing a 50/50 chamber next year. To win a majority outright, Democrats would need to bat 1.000 above and pull a true shocker in a solid red state like Texas or Tennessee. Simply put, nothing short of a true national blue wave that swallows virtually everyone will flip the chamber. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that individual polls continue to stream in suggesting that Tuesday could reduce the GOP’s majority even if that majority doesn’t disappear altogether. It’d be nice to offset a tough loss in Arizona, say, with a pick-up in Indiana. But is that still possible?
Incumbent Democrat Sen. Joe Donnelly bests Republican challenger Mike Braun by seven points among Indiana likely voters, 45-38 percent. His lead is at the poll’s margin of error. The race shifted since September when Braun was up by two points. In early October, Donnelly was up by two.
Donnelly’s edge comes in large part from greater party loyalty and higher interest in the election among Democrats. Fully 88 percent of Democrats back him vs. 80 percent of Republicans for Braun. In addition, nearly 1 in 10 Republicans go for Donnelly. Independents are about twice as likely to support the incumbent…
Nine percent of Indiana likely voters are undecided. Libertarian Lucy Breton takes five percent and that could be a wild card.
That seems so hard to believe. Even with the libertarian in the race siphoning off votes from Braun, it can’t conceivably be true that the Republican nominee in a red state is under 40 percent less than a week out from Election Day. Granted, two other polls taken in the middle of this month had Braun at 40 percent but more recent ones placed him at 46 and 47 percent, respectively. That’s what you’d expect as late deciders make up their minds. Seven points is easily the biggest lead of the campaign for Donnelly, too; the last two polls of Indiana before today had Braun up 3-4 points and a new one this morning from NBC had Donnelly up two, 48/46. NBC’s poll also showed the race tightening, which is in line with other surveys, whereas these new numbers from Fox show Braun fading since early September. It has to be an outlier — particularly given that Donnelly has never topped 45 percent in a poll this year, a pitiful reality for an incumbent. Fully 55 percent of Hoosiers are looking at other options. Can Braun really not manage 46 percent, even with a libertarian on the ballot?
It’s not all bad news from Fox, though. Things are brightening in Tennessee:
Republican Marsha Blackburn is pulling away from Democrat Phil Bredesen in the race to fill retiring Republican Sen. Bob Corker’s seat.
She is preferred 50-41 percent over the former governor among Tennessee likely voters. That 9-point lead is outside the poll’s margin of sampling error. She was up by five points in early October.
Blackburn’s advantage comes despite more Democrats (55 percent) than Republicans (48 percent) being extremely interested in the election — as well as greater party loyalty among Democrats. Fully 92 percent of Democrats back Bredesen vs. 87 percent of Republicans supporting Blackburn.
Blackburn’s numbers in Tennessee have been shaky at times but the last two polls have her ahead by five and now nine points, which seems safe-ish. If in fact Tennessee is off the board for Democrats, that means they have but one path to a Senate majority: Win all six of the toss-ups I mentioned above and then … Betomania in Texas. Interestingly, today brought the first truly good poll news O’Rourke has had in awhile, with a UT survey placing him behind Cruz by just 3.6 points. Another poll released yesterday gave Cruz a 10-point advantage, though, and he was at 51 percent or better in each of the last six polls taken until today’s UT results, which put him at 47 percent. Which is more likely, that he’s locked down a majority, as half a dozen polls have indicated, or that his support is fracturing at the last minute based on one? Betomania’s not happening, although he might at least force Texas to count the votes before the pros call the race next Tuesday. Moral victory for liberals!
Elsewhere in the Fox poll, by the way, Missouri is dead even at 43 percent between Josh Hawley and Claire McCaskill and Arizona is dead even at 46 percent between Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema. The Arizona polling today has been confounding: Fox has it tied, Reuters has McSally finally edging ahead by two, CNN has Sinema up four, which is in line with most other polling this month. Is reddish-purple McCain country finally starting to break for the Republican? Maybe! Or has the Democratic upstart Sinema cemented her small but stubborn lead? Maybe! Or is the race a true toss-up, with the needle tilting between McSally and Sinema a reflection of that? Maybe! Just make sure you’re drunk on Tuesday night before the Arizona returns start coming in.