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Sharp Changes in Maine, Oregon Governor Forecasts

I noted on Thursday that our forecasting model — even though it had shown an increase in Republican Paul LePage’s chances to be the next governor of Maine — still seemed to be underestimating him, given that the Democrat Elizabeth Mitchell was rapidly losing support to independent Eliot Cutler and that neither she nor Mr. Cutler were good bets to achieve the roughly 40 percent of the vote that Mr. LePage seems bound to achieve.

On Friday, with the release of new polling from Public Policy Polling and Pan Atlantic SMS, Mr. LePage indeed seems more assured of his victory. Both polls show Mr. LePage with a clear lead and both show Mr. Cutler having pulled ahead of Ms. Mitchell. The model now gives Mr. LePage a 93 percent chance of victory, up from 84 percent the day before.

If a candidate upends him at the last minute, it might indeed be Mr. Cutler rather than Ms. Mitchell. The model finally puts Mr. Cutler on the scoreboard, giving him about a 2 percent chance of victory (it had given him almost no chance before). I suspect that is a bit low, and that Ms. Mitchell’s chances, down sharply on Friday to 5 percent, are too high. The movement in this race is occurring very, very rapidly, in a way that sometimes occurs in primaries but is extremely rare in general elections. Nevertheless, it would be asking a lot of Mr. Cutler for him to surpass Mr. LePage.

The other race for governor to show a significant change on Friday night is Oregon, where a new poll from SurveyUSA puts the Democrat, John Kitzhaber, 7 points ahead of Republican Chris Dudley. This poll reflects the largest lead that either candidate has had in any poll of the race since June, and is an improvement for Mr. Kitzhaber from SurveyUSA’s poll two weeks ago, which gave him a 1-point advantage.

Significantly, SurveyUSA included cellphones in their sample for the first time, and found Mr. Kitzhaber 15 points ahead among that demographic (versus 4 points ahead among landline users). It also found Mr. Kitzhaber leading among those who have already voted.

It is doubtful that the inclusion of cellphones accounts for all, or even necessarily most, of Mr. Kitzhaber’s gain; some of it is probably statistical noise, particularly given that the partisan breakdown in this particular poll looks fairly Democrat-friendly.

Still, given that there is some evidence of both a cellphone effect and a ‘robopoll’ effect, one wonders whether there are other states in which polling firms may be slightly underestimating Democratic numbers. This is one of the best and last hopes they have heading into Tuesday.

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