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Senate Update: More Races Become More Competitive

Senate Polls

After a streak of strong polling days for Democrats, Wednesday marked a turnaround of sorts for Republicans. Their chance of taking back the Senate increased slightly, to about 54 percent. But here’s the bigger story: The picture has been muddied. The latest data makes more states more competitive.

The two best polls for Republicans released Wednesday came in two purple states that had been trending Democratic: Colorado and Iowa.

In Colorado, Republican Cory Garnder led Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in a Suffolk University survey 43 percent to 42 percent. It was Gardner’s first lead in a poll since July. In response, the left-leaning Project New America published a survey conducted by Myers Research giving Udall a 48 to 46 percent edge. FiveThirtyEight has Udall as a 64 percent favorite.

In Iowa, Quinnipiac University put Republican Joni Ernst ahead of Democrat Bruce Braley 48 percent to 42 percent. That’s her biggest edge in a poll this cycle. Of the past six polls released in Iowa, Braley was ahead in three, behind in two and tied in one. The race is tight: The FiveThirtyEight model gives Ernst a 53 percent chance of winning.

The good news for Democrats on Wednesday came in red states: Alaska and Louisiana.

Alaska is a notoriously difficult state to poll. Groups friendly to Democrats have recently released a number of polls showing Democratic Sen. Mark Begich leading. On Wednesday, Hays Research released a survey sponsored by the AFL-CIO that put Begich ahead of Republican Dan Sullivan 41 percent to 36 percent. Still, Alaska is conservative, and our latest forecast has Sullivan with a 56 percent chance to win.

In Louisiana, nonpartisan polls have been scarce. But a Gravis Marketing survey published Wednesday showed Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu tied with Republican Bill Cassidy at 45 percent. Given past polling data and the Republican lean of the state, we put Cassidy at a 63 percent chance of winning.

All four of these states — Colorado, Iowa, Alaska and Louisiana — have moved closer to being tossups in the past several days. In all four, each side’s candidate has at least a 35 percent chance of winning.

All of this portends an exciting final month and a half of campaign season.

Check out FiveThirtyEight’s latest Senate forecast.

An Update in Wisconsin’s Hot Gubernatorial Matchup

A few weeks ago, we expressed some skepticism in reading too much into a Marquette University Law School poll that had Republican Gov. Scott Walker ahead of Democrat Mary Burke by 3 percentage points among registered voters and down 2 points among likely voters. The reason was threefold:

  1. Likely voter results in midterm elections are typically more favorable to Republicans than Democrats.
  2. Marquette’s likely voter results haven’t been more accurate than its registered voter results.
  3. The longer term averages of both likely and registered voters gave Walker a lead.

On Wednesday, Marquette released a poll that put Walker ahead 49 percent to 46 percent among likely voters and tied at 46 percent among registered voters. With these results factored in, the long-term Marquette average (dating to October 2013) has Walker up by 3.4 percentage points among likely voters and 3 points among registered voters.

The race remains close, but Walker continues to be a slight favorite.

NEWS THAT PROBABLY DOESN’T MATTER

Most news that happens during election season won’t make a dent in the race. That doesn’t mean it’s not juicy or interesting. These are the stories people are talking about.

NEWS THAT PROBABLY DOES MATTER

Uh, this stuff might actually be kind of a big deal.

BETTER KNOW A CANDIDATE WHO’S PROBABLY GOING TO LOSE

Every election, one goal is to forecast the eventual winner of the race. But in contested races, there’s always at least one other person who has to lose. Sometimes doom is certain, other times less so. Here, we celebrate these individuals and point you to the best local journalism about them.

Robert J. Healey, a candidate for governor in Rhode Island, on the campus of Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island, in 2010.

Robert J. Healey, a candidate for governor in Rhode Island, on the campus of Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island, in 2010.

Steven Senne / AP

Robert J. Healey is running for governor of Rhode Island as a member of the Moderate Party. He will almost certainly lose. Healey is the founder of the Cool Moose Party, which has attempted to foster viable third-party challenges in statewide politics. This is far from Healey’s first stab at elected office. He’s run for governor or lieutenant governor six times, and four years ago he ran for lieutenant governor on the platform of abolishing the office.

Surely you could read the Providence Journal‘s take on Healey’s most recent run, but far more entertaining is Healey’s campaign blog.

THE LEE ATWATER MEMORIAL ABSURD AD OF THE DAY

#McConnelling

EYE ON 2016

Your No. 1 source for what to expect in 2016.

Notre Dame’s football team will play Michigan State at home Sept. 17, 2016.

That concludes this segment of EYE ON 2016.

Harry Enten is a senior political writer and analyst for FiveThirtyEight.

Walt Hickey is FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.

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