Democrats have made progress in several states in our latest gubernatorial forecast. Although it remains very probable that Republicans will control the majority of the nation’s governorships after Nov. 2, it is now more likely that Democratic and independent candidates can hold Republicans to victories in 20 to 23 of the 37 contests that will be held on Election Day.
Most of the Democrats’ gains in the new forecast come in blue states. In Maryland, the race appears to have shifted sharply for the Democratic incumbent, Martin O’Malley, who holds double-digit leads over Robert Ehrlich, a former governor, in three new surveys. Mr. O’Malley also has at least 52 percent of the vote in each of the surveys, and Mr. Ehrlich’s winning chances have dropped to just 4 percent from 19 percent, according to the model.
In Hawaii, a state that had shown some surprisingly close polling, a survey for the Honolulu Advertiser gives Democrat Neil Abercrombie an 8-point lead over the Republican Duke Aiona; three surveys conducted earlier this month had shown a lead for Mr. Abercrombie of just 2 to 3 points. Hawaii is a tricky state to poll, and some of the work there has been odd this year — for instance, a Rasmussen poll that gave longtime incumbent Daniel Inouye just a 13-point lead against a complete unknown in the Senate race there. I’m not going to pretend to know exactly how to untangle everything, but the model now has Mr. Abercrombie as an 85 percent favorite, up from 79 percent.
Although I’m not inclined to talk about momentum, it may be an apt term in California, where Jerry Brown has improved his position over Meg Whitman for seven consecutive forecasts, and is now about 90 percent likely to win, according to the model, his chances having been as low as 36 percent in mid-September. The newest survey in the state, from The Los Angeles Times and the University of Southern California, may be a modest outlier in showing Mr. Brown with a 13-point lead — and, in a reversal of the pattern observed for Democrats throughout most of the country, performing better among likely voters than registered ones. Still, the fact is that essentially all of the recent surveys show bad news for Ms. Whitman, and she is now something of a long-shot.
We also show Democrats’ odds improving slightly in two purple states. The first is Ohio, where there’s been an odd dichotomy between surveys that show an essentially tied race and those that show a fairly clear lead for the Republican, John Kasich. The most recent poll, from the University of Cincinnati, is of the former type, giving Mr. Kasich a 2-point lead over the Democratic incumbent, Ted Strickland. The model has Mr. Strickland’s chances improving to about 20 percent from 15 percent; I’d feel a little better about them if there were more undecideds in the state (there are very few, although that’s accounted for by our forecast), or if Democrats were doing a better job of holding their own in the Senate race, which they appear bound to lose by a 15 or 20 point margin.
Florida, where the race has been nearly tied all year, remains that way, although this time the model makes Alex Sink, the Democrat, a nominal, 52-percent favorite, as a new Zogby poll shows her ahead of Rick Scott by 4 points. The race has been so tight in Florida that the lead in our forecast has been shifting back and forth in picking a leader with seemingly every new survey release.
One state shows a shift toward Republicans with this update. It is South Carolina, where an InsiderAdvnatage poll gives Republican Nikki Haley a 14-point lead, contradicting some other recent surveys that had suggested her race against Vincent Sheheen had tightened.
One last wild card for the true die-hards in the audience: it is a Nielson Brothers poll in South Dakota which shows Democrat Scott Heidepriem just 3 points behind his opponent Dennis Daugaard, who had been thought to be heavily favored. There was also a Rasmussen Reports poll out in the state this week that gave Mr. Daugaard a 19-point lead. Our model has certain failsafes under which it treats a poll as basically being an outlier, and those were triggered in the case of the Nielson Brothers poll, and so it therefore still shows Mr. Daugaard as having a fairly unambiguous advantage. Still, the state probably deserves another poll, particularly since the U.S. House race there is extremely competitive.