Another key Senate race moves toward GOP in Election Forecast update

Another key Senate race moves toward GOP in Election Forecast update

Republicans’ path to the Senate majority continues to broaden ahead of Tuesday’s election — now including a state that Joe Biden carried by 7 points just two years ago.

The Senate race in New Hampshire is moving from “Lean Democratic” to “Toss Up” in POLITICO’s Election Forecast — a reflection of the tightening in that campaign in recent weeks. While Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan still has a narrow lead over Republican Don Bolduc, she is no longer a significant favorite.

The overall battle for the Senate majority continues to be a “Toss Up.” But the range of plausible outcomes now includes a sizable Republican majority: A sweep of the six “Toss Up” races would give the GOP 54 seats.

And if the two parties split the “Toss Up” races evenly, Republicans would still win a one-seat majority in the chamber. Democrats are banking on the power of incumbency and lingering unpopularity of some Republican nominees to overcome an increasingly rough political environment for the party in power.

New Hampshire is one of three Senate races changing in our latest ratings update, in addition to four governor’s races and 13 House races — with almost all of the shifts going in Republicans’ direction. The political environment in the closing days of the race continues to move toward the GOP.

Here are the three main takeaways from the latest ratings update:

New Hampshire firmly in play, Washington State on the board

In addition to moving New Hampshire to “Toss Up,” two other races are moving in Republicans’ direction: Sen. Marco Rubio has all-but-cemented his lead in Florida, and his race shifts from “Lean Republican” to “Likely Republican,” despite the well-funded challenge he’s faced from Democratic Rep. Val Demings.

And the Senate race in Washington State has become more competitive. Democratic Sen. Patty Murray is still the favorite, but Republican Tiffany Smiley — who is outspending Murray in the race’s final month — has gained ground. The race moves from “Likely Democratic” to “Lean Democratic.”

Though polls have tightened in Washington, Smiley is still hampered by the state’s partisan lean. In the August primary, Murray (52 percent) and Democratic candidates combined for more than 55 percent of the vote. The political environment is trending better for Republicans now, but that’s a steep hill to climb.

In moving to “Toss Up,” New Hampshire joins five other states: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Yet not all of them are pure coin flips. Hassan’s slight edge in her race is similar to GOP Sen. Ron Johnson’s modest advantage in Wisconsin. Numerous public surveys this week showed Johnson still leading Democrat Mandela Barnes, though by threadbare margins.

Like Arizona, which moved to “Toss Up” last week, the tightening in New Hampshire has come despite some national Republican groups pulling out of the state.

But while the top GOP super PAC, Senate Leadership Fund, has been absent, more ideological groups have filled the gap, like the Steve Wynn-funded Our American Century ($2.9 million in ads) and Sentinel Action Fund ($1 million), which is a partner organization of Heritage Action, an advocacy organization affiliated with the Heritage Foundation.

New York governor moves to Lean Democratic

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is still the favorite to win a full term in her race, but Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin is mounting a furious charge in the race’s closing weeks. New York, which has sat at “Likely Democratic” since the Election Forecast launched, moves one notch over, to “Lean Democratic.”

Zeldin’s focus on crime has proved potent — polls show more voters rank it as their most important issue than any other topic — but he’s still running as an ally of former President Donald Trump and an opponent of abortion rights in New York State.

Still, the closer-than-expected race at the top of the ticket is causing some agita for New York Democrats downballot. Three of the 12 House races moving toward Republicans are in New York.

The three other gubernatorial races shifting toward Republicans are in states Democrats hoped to contest earlier in the cycle, but where GOP incumbents have commanding leads: New Hampshire, Ohio and Vermont each move from “Likely Republican” to “Solid Republican.”

GOP closes in on House majority

Republicans are now favored in 215 House districts — just 3 shy of the majority mark.

Two contests previously rated “Toss Up” are now “Lean Republican”: A newly-drawn open seat in Colorado and Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne’s race in Iowa. Much of the polling in Axne’s district shows a tied race — including a publicly released internal poll from Republican Zach Nunn’s campaign — but undecided voters are expected to break against the incumbent.

Meanwhile, four races previously rated “Lean Democratic” are now in the “Toss Up” category: the seats belonging to Reps. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, along with an open seat on Western Long Island belonging to retiring Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.).

Republicans have made a late play for the Maloney seat. Congressional Leadership Fund, the top House GOP super PAC, has reported spending $8.8 million — mostly in the final three weeks — to oust the chair of House Democrats’ campaign arm this year.

Unlike other districts that have seen last-minute spending, Maloney’s seat is a “Toss Up” — neither he nor Republican Mike Lawler is a significant favorite.

In other seats shifting in this update, late spending has made them more competitive, but Democrats retain an advantage.

Reps. Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) and Joe Morelle (D-N.Y.) all shifted from “Likely Democratic” to “Lean Democratic,” as did an open seat in Pittsburgh, where Democratic candidate Summer Lee is facing both a barrage of late spending by AIPAC’s new super PAC and a potentially confusing situation on the ballot. Her GOP opponent, Mike Doyle, shares the same name as the district’s retiring Democratic congressman.

One race did move toward Democrats: GOP Rep. Steve Chabot is now the underdog to win reelection in his Cincinnati-based district. That race moves from “Toss Up” to “Lean Democratic.”

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