Arizona and Florida show how tough the Senate map is for Democrats

If Democrats are going to have a realistic shot of winning the Senate, they will have to win the races in tw...

Posted: Aug 28, 2018 8:48 PM

If Democrats are going to have a realistic shot of winning the Senate, they will have to win the races in two of the states with primaries on Tuesday: Arizona and Florida. If they lose either one, their chance to win the Senate goes down precipitously.

Democrats have an uphill battle to take back the Senate in November. They need a net pickup of two seats, and only nine of the 35 seats up for election in 2018 are currently held by Republicans. Ten of the Democrats (or independents who caucus with the Democrats) occupy seats in states President Donald Trump won in 2016.

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Arizona ranks as the Democrats' top pickup opportunity in 2018. It is one of only two seats with Republican senators and taking place in states that Trump won by fewer than 5 points or lost. It is the only state that meets this description where no incumbent is running for re-election. (Sen. Jeff Flake is retiring.)

Arizona is also a state that may be becoming more purple. It hasn't had a Democratic senator since Dennis DeConcini left the chamber in 1995. Yet Arizona was one of the few states where Trump's 2016 margin was smaller than Mitt Romney's was in 2012.

Likely Democratic nominee Kyrsten Sinema looks to take full advantage of Democratic gains. Sinema, who is the second most moderate Democrat in the House, all but cleared the field upon announcing her entry into the race last year.

Her probable opponent is Republican Rep. Martha McSally, who also has a fairly moderate voting record. McSally, though, has had to fight her way through a tough three-way primary against the more conservative Kelli Ward and Joe Arpaio. The latest polling shows a clear McSally advantage in the primary, which no doubt pleases those who want a Republican to win in the fall. Her primary battle, however, may have cost her. McSally has had to adopt some more conservative and Trump-friendly rhetoric.

Sinema has held a consistent general-election lead over McSally in the area of 5 to 10 percentage points. This same polling has both candidates under 50%. That could give McSally room to grow, once the general election campaign begins.

Still, Sinema is a favorite for the fall campaign. Candidates in her polling position win about 75% of the time. That's necessary good news for Democratic Senate hopes, though far from sufficient. Without winning in Arizona, Democrats would need to win in Tennessee (where Trump won by 26 points in 2016) or Texas (where Republican Sen. Ted Cruz continues to be ahead of Democratic wunderkind Beto O'Rourke). They'd, of course, also need to win in Nevada, where Trump lost by 2 points, but where Republican Sen. Dean Heller has managed to stay neck and neck with Democrat Jacky Rosen.

The Florida Senate race is something altogether different.

Normally, senators like Democrat Bill Nelson don't lose re-election. In the over 110 times since 1982 when an incumbent senator of the opposition party has run in a midterm, the incumbent has lost only four times. Three of those four times were in years (1998 and 2002) when the president had an approval rating north of 60%. Trump's approval rating is in the low 40s. And all of those four occurrences happened in states that were reliable votes for the president's party in presidential elections. Florida is a swing state, on the other hand.

Even when Republican Gov. Rick Scott entered the race, it looked like it was going to be a tough road for Republicans. Scott had barely won his two elections in 2010 and 2014, and both of those took place in very good Republican years.

In other words, this should have been a race that Nelson won fairly easily. That has not been the case.

Scott has led in most of the recent polling by low single digits. Florida insiders too believe that Scott is a small favorite over Nelson.

Just what the heck has happened? Two key factors are working in Scott's favor.

First, he has raised a lot more money than Nelson. This has allowed him to spend a lot more on the airwaves.

Second, Scott's simply more popular than he was during his two runs for governor. Thanks in part to his actions after Hurricane Irma, his approval rating rose significantly. For the first time in his governorship, Scott has seen an extended period of positive net approval (approval minus disapproval) ratings.

It's far too early to count Nelson out, though. The fundamentals of this race still favor him.

Most of the polls that have given Scott a lead have been of lower quality (i.e. non-live interviewer or not transparent about their data collection), and Nelson had a small lead in earlier polls of higher quality.

Further, Nelson actually has a cash-on-hand advantage, though Scott has personal wealth he can spend. Still, you can be sure national Democrats will be spending a ton on the race in the final two months of the campaign.

Democrats, simply put, cannot afford to not put in a vigorous effort in Florida. Like with Arizona, Democrats need every win they can get, and this race on paper shouldn't be as difficult as other states. Democratic incumbents in Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota face much tougher electoral winds.

A loss in Florida, like in Arizona, would make a tough Senate map nearly impossible for Democrats.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 595436

Reported Deaths: 9466
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion822851311
Lake44626670
Allen32165543
Hamilton28684308
St. Joseph26917378
Elkhart24173343
Vanderburgh18856236
Tippecanoe17638125
Johnson14687289
Porter14513163
Hendricks14010242
Madison10715216
Vigo10540177
Clark10349135
Monroe9189108
Delaware8956134
LaPorte8867158
Howard7982140
Kosciusko791380
Warrick652994
Hancock646999
Bartholomew631096
Floyd6205107
Wayne5984159
Grant5874110
Dubois547175
Boone538867
Morgan524192
Henry497764
Marshall495384
Cass475362
Dearborn464545
Noble463157
Jackson417846
Shelby405680
Lawrence383876
Clinton367840
Gibson360058
DeKalb339163
Montgomery338152
Harrison333643
Knox329839
Miami312743
Steuben309343
Adams297435
Whitley297225
Wabash294947
Ripley294345
Putnam288047
Jasper285234
Huntington284959
White269138
Daviess263073
Jefferson253838
Decatur243482
Fayette242948
Greene237062
Posey234427
Wells231347
LaGrange225061
Clay219032
Scott218538
Randolph209845
Jennings193935
Sullivan189632
Spencer184319
Fountain180527
Washington179321
Starke172743
Jay163922
Fulton161130
Owen161137
Carroll153915
Orange152933
Rush151618
Perry149327
Vermillion145833
Franklin144433
Tipton129232
Parke12918
Pike114326
Blackford109222
Pulaski95337
Newton89821
Brown85931
Benton85310
Crawford7719
Martin70713
Warren6637
Switzerland6235
Union6146
Ohio4727
Unassigned0374

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 836049

Reported Deaths: 10323
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin98533705
Cuyahoga831801065
Hamilton61931441
Montgomery42028399
Summit33849736
Lucas30524605
Butler30003228
Stark25093419
Warren19083140
Lorain18418212
Mahoning16931337
Lake15592136
Clermont15335105
Delaware1403077
Licking12819132
Trumbull12515307
Fairfield1232480
Greene11729135
Medina11286165
Clark10672264
Wood10081156
Allen9639126
Portage9006107
Miami895273
Richland8910116
Marion7377113
Tuscarawas7177174
Columbiana7164124
Pickaway710350
Wayne6855165
Muskingum678241
Erie5976118
Hancock542990
Ross535287
Scioto527063
Geauga491755
Darke459489
Ashtabula443172
Lawrence439353
Union437028
Sandusky427462
Mercer427387
Seneca417357
Auglaize416259
Huron416138
Shelby413521
Jefferson409066
Belmont403740
Washington375940
Putnam367872
Athens36759
Madison343429
Knox340122
Ashland336838
Fulton328543
Defiance322578
Crawford316371
Preble313836
Brown298819
Logan296529
Ottawa283934
Clinton281243
Williams272866
Highland266018
Jackson259043
Guernsey245325
Champaign244427
Fayette229729
Morrow22574
Perry223318
Holmes220362
Henry213547
Hardin206433
Coshocton199620
Van Wert198744
Wyandot192549
Gallia192126
Adams167415
Pike167417
Hocking165523
Carroll151316
Paulding141121
Noble118740
Meigs105021
Monroe97229
Harrison8598
Morgan79728
Vinton67613
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