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Governors Update: New Polls In Georgia And Ohio Show Really Tight Races

Welcome to our Election Update for Wednesday, Oct. 31 — we are now less than one week from Election Day!

Our governors forecast continues to show Democrats in a position to make significant gains this year: The Classic version of the forecast has Democrats positioned to govern 59 percent of the nation’s population in 24 states, which is roughly what it was when we launched two weeks ago. There are five toss-up races1 in our forecast, but with new polls in our two most populous toss-up states — Georgia and Ohio — we thought we’d take a look at just how competitive they remain.

The Georgia race has attracted national attention not only because it’s close, but also because Democrat Stacey Abrams is seeking to become the first African-American woman governor in U.S. history. Republican Brian Kemp has narrowly led Abrams in most recent polls of likely voters, but a new survey from OpinionSavvy2 found Abrams with a slight edge, 48 percent to 47 percent. Each version of our model views Kemp as a slim favorite — though all three consider it a toss-up — but with polls this tight, it’s possible there will be an Abrams-Kemp runoff on Dec. 4. Georgia requires a candidate to win a majority in a general election, so if Abrams and Kemp run close together, Libertarian Ted Metz could win enough of the vote to prevent either from achieving a majority. Metz is at 1.2 percent in our forecasted vote share, but he could win slightly more than that. After all, Libertarian candidates averaged 3.1 percent of the vote in Georgia gubernatorial elections from 1990 to 2014.



Ohio, the classic bellwether swing state also has a close race for governor, confirmed in the latest two polls. Emerson College found3 Democrat Richard Cordray with a slender lead over Republican Mike DeWine, 49 percent to 46 percent. Another academic pollster, Baldwin Wallace University, found4 two slightly different results depending on how it asked the horse-race question. In the head-to-head contest, respondents gave Cordray a 1-point edge, but with third-party options included, DeWine actually had a slight lead (half a percentage point) over Cordray. Unlike the Georgia race, where Kemp is a narrow favorite in each version of the forecast, the versions differ just a bit when it comes to Ohio. The Lite forecast, which uses only national and state polling, gives Cordray a 5 in 9 chance of winning, while the Classic version, which adds election fundamentals to the polls, gives both candidates about a 1 in 2 shot of winning. But the Deluxe version of the forecast, which adds in the views of expert handicappers to the polls and fundamentals, assigns DeWine a 5 in 9 chance of victory. So it’s sort of a “Choose Your Own Buckeye Adventure,” with all three versions pointing to a tight race.

On election night, these two states will receive a lot of attention because of their size and competitiveness, but also because of their political history — Georgia because of Abrams’s history-making potential and Ohio because of its traditional status as a bellwether state.

Footnotes

  1. Neither candidate has more than a 3 in 5 chance of winning.

  2. Poll was conducted from Oct. 28 to Oct. 29.

  3. Poll was conducted from Oct. 26 to Oct. 28.

  4. Poll was conducted from Oct. 19 to Oct. 27.

Geoffrey Skelley is an elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight.

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