Skip to main content
ABC News
Modest Gains for Democrats in Gubernatorial Forecast

Although we’ve been skeptical about the notion that the overall political environment has improved by any discernible margin for Democrats, there are some exceptions in gubernatorial elections around the country. In recent weeks, Democrats have moved into the lead in the gubernatorial race in California, while closing their deficits in other states where they once trailed badly. Likewise, while there were relatively few shifts in this week’s gubernatorial polls, the exceptions generally benefited Democrats.

In Oregon — a race that has received little attention from pollsters — a Rasmussen Reports poll shows the Democrat, the former Gov. John Kitzhaber, moving into a 2-point lead over Republican Chris Dudley, a former professional basketball player. This reflects a reversal from the past three Rasmussen Reports polls, which had shown Mr. Dudley with leads ranging from 3 to 5 points. The result is also consistent with other recent polling data which suggests that Democrats may be suffering less on the Pacific Coast than in other regions of the country. The forecasting model now regards Mr. Kitzhaber as a nominal, 56 percent favorite.

A new poll in Maine from the Maine Center for Public Opinion is the second consecutive one to show an essentially tied race between Democrat Elizabeth Mitchell and Republican Paul LePage, after previous surveys — defying the expectations of some analysts — had shown Mr. LePage with an advantage. The polling in Maine has been hard to read, in part because pollsters are finding a large number of voters expressing support for a number of third party candidates, or failing to notate a preference at all. But Ms. Mitchell’s chances, which had fallen as low as 13 percent in the model, have now recovered to 25 percent.

In Florida, where the polling has been volatile for several weeks, the polls are falling more into line and show an essentially tied race. The Republican candidate, Rick Scott, saw his margin decrease over Democrat Alex Sink in two surveys — those by Quinnipiac and Rasmussen Reports, which had previously shown him with a lead. But a Mason-Dixon poll, which had given Ms. Sink a 7-point lead before, now shows her margin decreasing to 4 points. Needless to say, the race is too close to call, although Ms. Sink’s chances are improved incrementally from last week.

Individual polls this week also show relatively close results for Democrats in Alaska and Arizona — two states that were thought to be lost to them. But other surveys would need to show similar results before these races could be considered truly competitive.

There is also an encouraging result or two for Republicans this week.

In Hawaii, a Public Policy Polling survey shows just a 2-point lead for Democrat Neil Abercrombie over Republican James Aiona — far smaller than in previous surveys, although the state had received little polling of late. Hawaii has a well-deserved reputation as a difficult state in which to poll. Although Mr. Abercrombie remains the favorite, his position is not safe and the model gives Mr. Aiona about a 20 percent chance of winning.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, a poll conducted three weeks ago that found a tied race now looks increasingly like an outlier, as several subsequent surveys have shown the Republican, Nathan Deal, with a steady-seeming lead of 6-to-9 points.

Republicans should not spend too much time fretting about their overall position: the most likely outcome is that they end up with control of about 30 of the nation’s 50 governorships after Nov. 2. And the polling in some large states like Illinois and Ohio suggests that, while the Democratic incumbents in those states have made their races somewhat tighter, they will probably not make up enough ground to win. Still, there is a chance for Democrats to salvage some dignity from what is otherwise likely to be a poor election night for them.

Nate Silver founded and was the editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.