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Governor Forecast Update: Chafee’s Chances Wax; Whitman’s Wane

Here are the candidates for governor who find themselves in a materially stronger position from earlier this week.

  • We yet again have a new leader in Florida, and it’s the Republican Rick Scott, although by about the slimmest possible margin: our program currently projects him to win by one-tenth of a point, which could trigger another recount in a state that has had a few too many of them. There appears to be a fairly large enthusiasm gap in Florida, while there are also a goodly number of voters who have tepid views of Mr. Scott; that may be what’s driving some of the disparities in the polling, as recent surveys show everything from a 6-point lead for Mr. Scott to a 7-point edge for his opponent, Alex Sink.
  • The other state with a new leader is Rhode Island, where Lincoln Chafee, the former Republican senator who is running as an independent, has pulled ahead of the Democrat Frank T. Caprio on the strength of a Rasmussen Reports poll that gives him a 7-point lead. Given that three-way races are volatile, and that Rasmussen is the only pollster yet to show Mr. Chafee with a lead, we could use another survey to confirm this result. Still, he is a familiar face to Rhode Islanders, and the state has one of the nation’s highest percentages of independent voters, so his fundamentals are reasonably sound.
  • In California, Meg Whitman’s chances of defeating Jerry Brown are increasingly slim, as new surveys give Mr. Brown leads of 7 and 8 percentage points. Ms. Whitman’s internal polls also have her trailing, although by a smaller margin, according to KCBS’s Doug Sovern. The polling has been fairly consistent in this race for several weeks now, and I don’t know that it’s really all that hard a contest to read: Ms. Whitman’s campaign has encountered a few speed bumps, and she may have saturated the market with advertisements to the point that voters are tuning her out; moreover, she has lost ground even as the Senate candidate in California, Carly Fiorina, has held or somewhat improved her position. And a comeback is less likely in a state with significant early voting. Ms. Whitman’s winning chances are now down to 14 percent in the model, from 18 percent earlier this week.
  • Tom Tancredo’s chances have improved again in Colorado, where a new Magellan Strategies poll puts him just 1 point behind Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, the Democrat. Both the polls that show Mr. Tancredo within a point or two of Mr. Hickenlooper are Republican-leaning “robopolls,” and should probably be interpreted with caution. Because he generates strong reactions, Mr. Tancredo is the sort of candidate who can be difficult to survey if your poll has a low response rates and you’re only tapping into the most enthusiastic and partisan voters. Still, with Mr. Hickenlooper’s support in the polls never having gotten much above 46 or 47 percent, there is no reason to think that Mr. Tancredo couldn’t win if he is able to consolidate essentially all Republican support from Dan Maes, whom he has been lobbying to drop out of the race.  The model puts his chances at about 20 percent.
  • The polling in Maine has been exceptionally hard to read this cycle, but the Republican Paul LePage once again looks to have established himself as the favorite. Still, Mr. LePage has only about 35 percent of the vote even in the polls which give him a lead, with many voters remaining undecided or pledging to support third-party candidates. This race almost has the feel of a primary, with the multitude of candidates on the ballot and voters’ seeming reluctance to attach themselves to any of them. That dynamic could potentially favor the conservative Mr. LePage, since Tea Party voters, while not especially abundant in Maine, are probably the most certain to vote in what may otherwise be a very low-turnout election.

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.