Senate Watch: New Polls Show Ayotte Ahead in New Hampshire, Indiana All Tied Up

Posted: Oct 07, 2016 10:25 AM

Let's start with the good news for Senate Republicans. Just yesterday, we wrote about "the intangibles" favoring Republican Todd Young in Indiana's Senate race, as former Senator Evan Bayh -- who cast the deciding vote for Obamacare before leaving government to cash in as a DC lobbyist -- has stumbled. Democrats thought Bayh would be a sure bet after early internal polling looked good. Since then, the race has become much more competitive, although statewide surveys have been scarce. We finally have a new data point in the race, and Young has pulled into a tie:

Trump leads Clinton in the state by just five points, according to the same data; if he can beef up his margin a bit (might Mike Pence's strong debate showing help in his home state?), and the GOP keeps landing blows against Bayh, there's a decent chance Republicans could hold this seat.  That would significantly dent Chuck Schumer's chances of becoming majority leader.  You'll also recall that one of the key swing races that will determine control of the upper chamber is in New Hampshire.  We told you about Kelly Ayotte's poor debate answer about Trump being a role model for children, which she quickly repudiated in a formal statement.  Democrats teed off, cutting ads, and blanketing the media with attacks on this misstep. That was on Monday.  Three days later, a new Suffolk/Boston Globe poll of the race emerges -- most of which was in the field after the debate, amid the firestorm.  Bang:

Ayotte has now led in four of the last five Granite State polls released over the past month, and maintains an edge in the RCP average. Two words of caution, however: First, amid a mudslide of bad battleground polling for Donald Trump, this New Hampshire survey pegs Hillary's lead at only two points.  That's significantly below the average in that state.  Margin-wise, Ayotte is running eight points ahead of Trump here, which is good news for her, needless to say.  But if this poll proves to be an outlier and Trump is losing more decisively, as other polling suggests, Ayotte's lead could be a lot less comfortable than six points.  Still, her brand in the state is pretty strong, with a (48/33) favorability rating -- besting Democrat Maggie Hassan's (42/40) and far outpacing Trump's (36/57), so that's a plus for her.  Second, there's a chance that the 'role model' trip-up didn't have enough time to take root as this poll was in the field, so voters may sour after marinating over her answer and re-do.  We'll see.  Here's Ayotte's upbeat new ad, the opening lines of which are obviously crafted to clean up after herself:

Here's the worrisome news for Republicans whose names will appear beneath Donald Trump's on the ballot next month: Aside from Quinnipiac's Ohio poll and the New Hampshire poll mentioned above, all of the movement in battlegrounds has been away from the GOP nominee -- check out these new results from Michigan (HRC +11) and Florida (HRC +3) -- and Hillary's average national lead has stabilized a bit since her debate win, even with a handful of outliers factored in.  Alarmingly, both parties' internal numbers reportedly look even worse.  Read the fourth paragraph here:

I'll admit to rolling my eyes at yet another "will the GOP abandon Trump?" story, but there's little doubt that the pressure is on the brash billionaire to drastically improve in his debate performance on Sunday evening.  If the internal polling is telling professionals on both side of the aisle that Trump's erosion is more severe than even the public polling suggests, Republicans in competitive House races are probably sweating -- as are the Ayottes, Toomeys, Burrs and Hecks of the world.  I'll leave you with Trump's only plausible path to 270 without Pennsylvania:

Addendum: Based on RCP averages, Trump is slightly down in Nevada, in addition to North Carolina, Florida and New Hampshire.  Not to mention Pennsylvania.  That would put Clinton at 322 electoral votes.  Sunday is big.