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Senate Update: A Push Day On The Polling Front

It’s a push. Wednesday saw a mix of polls, with both Democrats and Republicans receiving good news, and the FiveThirtyEight model continues to give Republicans a little less than a 63 percent chance of taking back the Senate.

Democrats continue to lead in blue states. A poll in Michigan from the Glengariff Group found Democrat Gary Peters ahead of Republican Terri Lynn Land 47 to 36.5 percent. It’s the second day in a row a poll gave Peters at least a 5 percentage point advantage. We now have his odds of winning at 75 percent.

But Republicans continue to lead in red states, and they have a chance of picking up a purple state or two.

A new SurveyUSA poll in Georgia found Republican David Perdue only 3 percentage points in front of Democrat Michelle Nunn, 47 percent to 44 percent. Perdue had led Nunn in SurveyUSA’s previous poll by 9 points, 50 percent to 41 percent. The FiveThirtyEight model, however, had Perdue winning by 4 percentage points before the poll came out, so Perdue’s chances of winning barely moved, inching down from 73 percent to 72 percent.

Worse for Democrats is that we were right in urging readers not to make too much of a Loras College poll of the Iowa Senate race showing Democrat Bruce Braley pulling away from Republican Joni Ernst. A new Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey of Iowa surfaced on Wednesday. The survey, conducted at the end of August for the left-leaning group Americans for Tax Fairness, showed Ernst up 45 percent to 43 percent. Ernst had gained compared to PPP’s previous poll, which had her down by 1 point. Braley is still a very slight favorite — the FiveThirtyEight model gives him a 54 percent chance of winning — but he’s not running away with it in Iowa.

Finally, it’s a good time to play the caution card in the three-way Senate race in South Dakota. A SurveyUSA poll published Tuesday night put Republican Mike Rounds ahead of Democrat Rick Weiland and independent Larry Pressler (a former Republican senator), 39 percent to 28 percent to 25 percent, respectively. The biggest mover here was Pressler. He jumped 8 percentage points from SurveyUSA’s last poll in May.

SurveyUSA also discovered that, if Pressler were to drop out, Rounds would lead a one-on-one against Weiland by only 2 percentage points, 44 percent to 42 percent. Races with viable third party candidates (see Pressler) tend to be more fluid than your normal Democrat vs. Republican Senate race (see Pressler’s 8-point jump). Therefore, FiveThirtyEight’s latest forecast gives Rounds an 89 percent chance of winning even though he has led throughout the campaign by double-digits. We expect Rounds to win the race, but we’re not as sure of a Republican pickup in South Dakota as we are of one in Montana and West Virginia.

Harry Enten was a senior political writer and analyst for FiveThirtyEight.