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The Florida Senate race may be moving away from Republican Rick Scott

First things first: The theme song of the week is "...

Posted: Sep 30, 2018 9:06 AM
Updated: Sep 30, 2018 9:06 AM

First things first: The theme song of the week is "Nothing's Gonna Stop Me Now" by Jesse Frederick and Bennett Salvay from the television show "Perfect Strangers."

Poll of the week: A new Marist College poll finds that Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson holds a 48% to 45% advantage over Republican Rick Scott.

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Two other gold standard polls out this week from the University of North Florida and Quinnipiac University give Nelson an average 3.5 point lead.

What's the point: For much of the summer, Scott has been tied or ahead of Nelson. Some of that polling was from lower quality pollsters (who don't call cell phones or don't use live interviews), but even among higher quality pollsters it seemed Scott was more than holding his own.

A Scott win would be against what we'd normally expect to happen in a midterm election in which there is a Republican president. In midterm elections since 1982, the senator of the opposition party has won about 96% of the time. The only cases where that didn't happen were when the president was extremely popular (President Donald Trump has an approval of around 40%) or when the incumbent was suffering from a scandal (Nelson isn't).

Indeed, I'm not aware of a "fundamentals" model in which Scott would be favored. My own model that takes into account money raised from individuals, candidate quality (i.e., current or previous office held), the partisan lean of the state and the national political environment has Nelson favored by a little less than 10 percentage points.

Put another way, Scott has been doing better than the fundamentals has suggested he would do. The average poll still finds this but to a lesser extent. That is, the polling has moved towards the fundamentals.

That the polling seems to be moving towards the fundamentals is good news for Democrats not just in Florida but nationally as well.

The reason is that the fundamentals indicate that Democrats are in better shape to take the Senate more than the polling does.

When I run the aforementioned fundamentals model to project every race and then simulate the national Senate election, the median result is that Democrats pick up a net gain of 2 seats. That's exactly the number they need to take to take control of the Senate.

Democrats are doing so well for three reasons. First, the national environment (as indicated by the national generic ballot) leans their way. Second, they have quality candidates running (either incumbent senators or former or current US representatives or governors). Third, Democrats are raising a ton of money from individuals. It's not just that money helps you buy ads, but it tends to flow to winning candidates (i.e., is a leading indicator).

The polling, however, shows something different than the fundamentals. When I run the simulations based solely on the polling, the median result is that Democrats pick up a net gain of no seats. That means Republicans will continue to hold a 51 to 49 seat majority in the Senate.

Pretty much all the incumbent Democratic senators in red states, such as Indiana's Joe Donnelly, Missouri's Claire McCaskill and North Dakota's Heidi Heitkamp, are doing worse in the polling than the fundamentals suggest that they should. None of these candidates are massive underdogs in the public polling. In fact, only Heitkamp is trailing and only by a small margin.

Yet, the simulations find that these incumbent Democrats lose a higher percentage of the time than the fundamentals because the polling is tight in all the races.

So is the polling or the fundamentals correct? FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver has found that when the polls and fundamentals differ, the polls end up being closer to the truth on average. He also found, however, that the polling does tend to move closer to the fundamentals on average.

This shift towards the fundamentals may be exactly what is happening in Florida with Nelson.

If it begins to happen in other states, Democrats may have a better shot at winning control of the Senate than the polls would currently lead you to believe.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 263023

Reported Deaths: 5752
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17675191
Hinds16813331
Harrison14224204
Rankin11167219
Jackson10839190
Lee9050144
Madison8568168
Jones6668114
Forrest6177124
Lauderdale6097192
Lowndes5518120
Lafayette516298
Lamar503965
Washington4923125
Bolivar4104109
Oktibbeha405982
Panola384881
Pontotoc376258
Warren3674103
Monroe3671108
Union355663
Marshall355270
Neshoba3485154
Pearl River3468105
Leflore3111109
Lincoln305688
Hancock291862
Sunflower291475
Tate279662
Alcorn272354
Pike268981
Itawamba268063
Scott259648
Yazoo255256
Prentiss252553
Tippah249250
Copiah249049
Coahoma248054
Simpson242171
Leake237367
Grenada223272
Marion222073
Covington219973
Adams213671
Wayne212634
Winston207371
George204339
Newton199046
Attala196963
Tishomingo194161
Chickasaw189044
Jasper179538
Holmes171768
Clay165837
Tallahatchie156235
Stone151425
Clarke147262
Calhoun140822
Smith129226
Yalobusha122034
Walthall114337
Greene113529
Noxubee112926
Montgomery111636
Carroll106622
Lawrence106517
Perry104531
Amite101426
Webster96124
Tunica88821
Claiborne88325
Jefferson Davis88329
Benton85623
Humphreys84624
Kemper80520
Quitman7089
Franklin69917
Choctaw63213
Wilkinson59825
Jefferson56821
Sharkey45117
Issaquena1606
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 439442

Reported Deaths: 6657
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson644371007
Mobile31435569
Madison28158217
Tuscaloosa21492275
Montgomery19873332
Shelby19248132
Baldwin17128189
Lee13137107
Morgan12594142
Etowah12070181
Calhoun11496206
Marshall10420123
Houston8988164
Limestone832081
Cullman8257124
Elmore8183110
DeKalb7871107
Lauderdale7847107
St. Clair7808130
Talladega6445112
Walker6028183
Jackson599145
Colbert548694
Blount546286
Autauga535862
Coffee460764
Dale409685
Franklin374150
Russell354215
Chilton344373
Covington338580
Escambia334544
Tallapoosa3143109
Dallas312996
Chambers303470
Clarke298036
Pike262431
Lawrence253355
Marion253161
Winston233342
Bibb222348
Geneva210247
Marengo208231
Pickens199531
Hale184944
Barbour180538
Fayette177829
Butler173160
Cherokee165131
Henry159525
Monroe152021
Randolph145536
Washington141727
Clay129746
Crenshaw123745
Macon121937
Cleburne121525
Lamar119922
Lowndes114836
Wilcox107922
Bullock103328
Perry99918
Conecuh97822
Sumter90527
Greene77923
Coosa63418
Choctaw51924
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