Nate Silver of ESPN and the Five Thirty-Eight blog is showing the political fortunes of endangered Democrats in North Carolina and Colorado improving dramatically in recent weeks.
On September 3, Silver had pegged Kay Hagan’s reelection chances at 46 percent. As of September 15, he has her reelection chances at 68 percent. She and Colorado senator Mark Udall (D)– who jumped from 47 percent to 69 percent — have shown the greatest improvement of ANY of the Democrat US Senate candidates out there.
Overall, Silver has dropped the GOP’s odds of taking the Senate from 64 percent to 55 percent. He attributes this mostly to the recent strong performances by Hagan and Udall:
[…] Most of the Democrats’ gains, however, have come from the purple states. What’s perplexing is that this has happened right as Democrats’ position on the generic congressional ballot — probably the best indicator of the national mood — has deteriorated. Historically, the generic ballot and state-by-state Senate polls — while not perfectly correlated — have moved in tandem more often than not. On average since 1990, a one-percentage-point change in the generic ballot has translated to a half-point change (in the same party’s direction) in the average Senate race.
Might Democrats be benefiting from strong voter outreach in these states — perhaps the residue of President Obama’s “ground game” in 2012? You could make that case in North Carolina, where two polls released on Monday showed a smaller gap between registered and likely voters than most other states that have been polled this year. But this story isn’t so consistent. By contrast, CNN’s poll of New Hampshire on Monday had a conspicuously large turnout gap. And in 2010, presidential swing states showed an especially large turnout drop-off for Democrats.
Money could be a more important factor. Consider the states with the largest polling movement: In North Carolina, Hagan had $8.7 million in cash on hand as of June 30 as compared with just $1.5 million for her Republican opponent, Thom Tillis. In Colorado, Udall had $5.7 million as compared with $3.4 million for Republican Cory Gardner.
These totals do not account for outside spending. But in stark contrast to 2010, liberal and Democratic “super PACs” have spent slightly more money so far than conservative and Republican ones, according to the the Center for Responsive Politics. (One caveat for Democrats is that when money is spent on advertising, it can sometimes have short-lived effects.)
Whatever the reason, the GOP’s path to a Senate majority is less robust than before. They still look pretty good in the “path of least resistance” states. But while West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota are extremely likely pickups, Alaska, Arkansas and Louisiana are not sure things. Meanwhile, Republicans have fewer top-tier backup options, as states like North Carolina and Colorado have trended away from them. Republicans may need to decide whether to consolidate their resources. It won’t help them if they lose each of Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire and North Carolina by a couple of percentage points — and in the process blow a state like Arkansas.