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Election Update: What The Polls Say In Four Republican-Leaning Battleground Districts

Welcome to our Election Update for Saturday, Oct. 20.

The topline numbers remain much the same — Democrats are strongly favored but not certain to take control of the House. As of 8:45 a.m. on Oct. 20, Democrats have a 5 in 6 (84 percent) chance of capturing the House and are expected to pick up 39 seats on average.

Today’s update is on what’s happening in four Republican-controlled battleground districts whose partisan baselines all lean toward the GOP in varying degrees, according to FiveThirtyEight’s partisan lean metric.1 In three of those seats, we have a second round of polls from Siena College and The New York Times to give us a sense of where the Democrats may flips seats and where Republicans might hold on. (The results were mixed, especially in the two Romney-Clinton districts we looked at.) As for our fourth district, it’s not a traditional battleground, but it could be an example of where an open-seat House race swings sharply against the president’s party.

A new Siena College/New York Times poll2 of the Maine 2nd Congressional District found incumbent Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin and Democratic state Rep. Jared Golden neck and neck, each polling at 41 percent in a district that is 6 points more Republican than the country per FiveThirtyEight’s calculations. This was good news for Golden, as a previous Siena College/New York Times poll3 found Poliquin leading Golden by 6 percentage points. Golden currently leads in FiveThirtyEight’s Classic version of the Maine 2nd forecast, with a 3 in 5 chance of winning. What makes the Maine 2nd noteworthy is not only its competitiveness4 and its status as an Obama-Trump district, but also Maine’s use of ranked-choice voting in federal elections. Currently, neither Golden nor Poliquin is forecast to win a majority, with 4 percent of the vote predicted to go to other candidates.5 But because a candidate needs a majority to win in a ranked-choice system, it seems pretty likely that Mainers who cast first-choice votes for third-party candidates will end up deciding whether Poliquin or Golden wins with their second-choice votes.

Another Siena College/New York Times poll6 in Kansas’ 3rd District found Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder trailing Democratic challenger Sharice Davids 48 percent to 39 percent. While the 3rd is 5 points more Republican than the country,7 Siena College/New York Times also showed Yoder down 8 points last month,8 so this might be one of the Romney-Clinton districts that Democrats stand to win. Our Classic version of the forecast now gives Davids a 7 in 9 chance of winning.

But the last Siena College/New York Times poll9 we looked at had good news for Republicans worried about losing too many Romney-Clinton districts. In the Texas 23rd, which is 4 points to the right of the country,10 the latest poll found Republican Rep. Will Hurd with a double-digit lead over Democratic challenger Gina Ortiz Jones, 53 percent to 38 percent. This echoed the pollster’s first survey11 of the district a month ago, which showed Hurd up 8 points. FiveThirtyEight’s Classic version of the forecast now gives Hurd a 7 in 9 chance of winning re-election.

To close, here’s a district to keep an eye on: the Florida 15th in exurban Tampa. The seat is 13 points more Republican-leaning than the nation as a whole,12 but the race between Republican state Rep. Ross Spano and Democrat Kristen Carlson appears to be quite close. A new SurveyUSA poll13 found them knotted at 45 percent apiece, and now Siena College/New York Times pollsters are in the field, too. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently cut its ad buys in the Tampa market; perhaps it will soon be reconsidering that move. FiveThirtyEight’s Classic version of the forecast now rates the race as a toss-up.

That’s all for now!


  1. FiveThirtyEight’s partisan lean is based on how a district voted in the past two presidential elections and in state legislative elections. In our formula, 50 percent of the weight is given to the 2016 presidential elections, 25 percent to the 2012 presidential election and 25 percent to state legislative elections.

  2. Poll was conducted from Oct. 15 to Oct. 18.

  3. Poll was conducted from Sept. 12 to Sept. 14.

  4. Both Maine’s Senate race and its 1st District contest are uncompetitive.

  5. The FiveThirtyEight model does not account for ranked-choice voting in its forecasts.

  6. Poll was conducted from Oct. 13 to Oct. 17.

  7. According to our partisan lean metric

  8. Poll was conducted from Sept. 20 to Sept. 23.

  9. Poll was conducted from Oct. 13 to Oct. 18.

  10. According to our partisan lean metric

  11. Poll was conducted from Sept. 10 to Sept. 11.

  12. According to our partisan lean metric

  13. Poll was conducted Oct. 9 to Oct. 14.

Geoffrey Skelley is a senior elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight.