Two weeks ago, just before the “Access Hollywood” video hit, Donald Trump was in a tight race with Hillary Clinton. Now? He trails in some polls by double digits.
Two weeks ago, Democrats had a small edge when it came to winning the Senate. Now? Well, basically, nothing’s changed.
Even as the presidential race appears to have experienced a real shift over the last 12 days or so, the battle for the Senate has remained largely as-is. In fact, we’re updating our race ratings today, and all of the most competitive seats are staying exactly where they were back on Oct. 5.
(The one change we’re making is moving Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski from “lean Republican” to “safe Republican” after a poll showed her up 33 points on a crowded field.)
We still have Democrats favored to win two GOP seats — in Illinois and Wisconsin. And we still have six seats listed as toss-ups — Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Democrats still need to win 3 of the 6 to get an effective majority. And Republicans are still in the game largely in spite of their presidential nominee, Trump.
And that last point is key. The question has long been how much a Trump implosion would damage the GOP’s congressional hopes. But as I argued last week, it’s still not really showing up in the actual downballot numbers. That could be for any number of reasons, including people not really associating Trump with the GOP and/or wanted a GOP Congress to keep an unloved Hillary Clinton in check. Or it could be because several Republicans in these key races have now said they won’t vote for Trump, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.).
But whatever the reason, the stasis in these races is actually pretty newsworthy, given what’s happening to Trump.
In Nevada, there was a CNN/Opinion Research poll this week that showed Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto taking an unprecedented 7-point lead. But then Monmouth University on Tuesday put Heck up 3.
The most recent polls in three other toss-up states — Missouri, New Hampshire and North Carolina — are all virtual ties right now. And in Indiana, former senator Evan Bayh (D) still looks like he’ll have trouble holding off Rep. Todd Young (R), despite a big early lead.
McCain and Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), meanwhile, all still look like favorites — especially McCain and Bennet. Rubio’s race is polling somewhat close — Quinnipiac had him up just 2 on Tuesday — but national Democrats have now pulled advertising in that state.
The one race that looked like it might be shifting over the last couple weeks was Wisconsin. There, a Marquette Law School poll showed Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) pulling to within 2 points of former senator Russ Feingold after trailing big early on. Loras College, incredibly, even had Johnson taking a 5-point lead!
But then on Tuesday came a St. Norbert College poll that put Feingold up 12 points, 52-40. Republicans haven’t re-invested in Johnson’s campaign, and they probably won’t.
Because in the battle for the Senate, there has been plenty of news — but nothing really new.