With nine days left to the national election, many races have fallen into place. Where should activists put their effort and money?
As longtime readers know, I believe that a practical application of poll aggregation is to determine where one should apply one’s efforts: races that are on a knife’s edge (20-80% win probability). My attitude was shaped by the extremely close Presidential race of 2004, in which George W. Bush and John Kerry traded the lead several times during the campaign. That year, several Presidential swing states were essential.
In 2012, I direct your focus downticket, to Senate and House races. The question is this: Given the efforts that are already under way, what will have the largest marginal effect on the 2013 political scene? For example, in the House of Representatives I advocate get-out-the-vote activity in knife-edge districts (“House: prediction update and GOTV advice,” Oct. 24).
1. North Dakota (Heitkamp v. Berg). North Dakota is strongly Republican, but also has an individualist style of politics somewhat separate from the national scene. Its economy is booming, and there has been an influx of new residents. Heidi Heitkamp (D) and Rick Berg (R) have been neck and neck all season. Close observers think that Heitkamp has run a very strong campaign. October polls (Pollster.com) show a tie (median margin +0.0 +/- 3.0%, n=5).
Heitkamp has been outspent by Berg, who now has $1.2 million cash on hand compared with Heitkamp’s $0.6 million. Conservative groups American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS have paid for ads against Heitkamp. This is an area where home-stretch donations can make a difference.
2. Montana (Tester v. Rehberg). The dirt farmer Senator, Jon Tester (D), has been battling a strong challenger, six-term Congressman Rep. Denny Rehberg (R). In their last debate, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was a main point of contention for both candidates. Rehberg, a climate change denialist, is a member of the House Science Committee. October polls (Pollster.com) show Tester +1.3 +/- 0.7% (n=3).
3. House races. As I’ve written, Republicans are highly likely to lose seats this election, endangering their majority. Conditions are fluid, and national organizations like the DCCC and NRCC are deploying resources where they will make a difference. The appearance of massive PAC spending highlights the need to support party-based efforts.
Finally, a note on the races I have not mentioned. My examination of other close Senate races suggests that in a number of them, one candidate has taken a clear (if sometimes small) lead. For this reason I am de-emphasizing them. I will give an overview of Senate conditions in the coming days, an update of my most recent assessment.