Read on for the early voting numbers, but let's start in West Virginia. Over the last few days, I've been taking note of very substantial last minute spending in that Senate race. On the surface, the cash injections seemed odd: Incumbent Democratic Senator Joe Manchin was up comfortably, it appeared, leading by between eight and 16 points in the three most recent public surveys of the race. He seemed to solidify his lead after siding with the large majority of his constituents to support the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. So what would explain these eleventh-hour expenditures by Democrats, particularly considering the number of extremely competitive Senate races all over the country?
WV-Sen: DSCC is making late TV buy additions in the Bluefield-Beckley-Oak Hill and Clarksburg-Weston markets— Medium Buying (@MediumBuying) October 31, 2018
Some politicos speculated that the Democrats were trying to help Manchin score a fairly resounding win early in the night, perhaps using his coattails to help the Democrat trying to win a House seat in West Virginia -- or even potentially broadcasting anti-GOP messaging (tailored to a red state audience) into neighboring states. The simpler explanation was that the race had gotten uncomfortably tight in a place where President Trump won his most lopsided victory in the country two years ago. The public data may have pegged Manchin's cushion in the double-digits, but the internal numbers may have noticeably shifted. Which brings us to two newer polls:
The Emerson survey also has Beto O'Rourke within three points of Ted Cruz in Texas, who's still at 50%+ (with Gov. Greg Abbott only up eight points, far weaker than what we've seen in other polls), and Marsha Blackburn leading comfortably in Tennessee. Additionally, in the competitive WV-03 House race, the Republican nominee is ahead by seven points. In the Metro News poll, the Libertarian candidate is pulling in an outsized 11 percent, with the GOP leading fairly strongly on the generic Congressional ballot (50/42) among West Virginians. The number one goal of President Trump's rally for Patrick Morrissey this afternoon is to help convince voters who approve of both Trump and Manchin that the success of his presidency requires the defeat of as many Democrats as possible, even ones that people may personally like. If Morrissey can peel off a sizable chunk of the Trump/Manchin coalition, and tug some libertarian leaners into the fold, he's got a shot at winning this thing. And if Democrats didn't agree that was possible, they wouldn't be redirecting gargantuan sums of late money to West Virginia. Put simply, they cannot afford to let this one slip away.
Elsewhere, a flurry of new polls show the Florida gubernatorial and Senate races within one or two points (with Democrats slightly ahead), with lots of statistical dissonance out in Arizona. NBC had a poll with Kyrsten Sinema up three. CNN showed her up four. Fox News had it exactly tied. Reuters gave McSally a two-point edge. And then a local ABC affiliate (whose models have been unusually friendly to McSally all fall) dropped a survey giving McSally a seven-point lead. Color me skeptical that any potential McSally victory would be anything other than very close, but Jim Geragthy thinks the early voting tea leaves (caveats abound!) bode fairly well for Republicans in the state:
There are currently 3.7 million registered voters in Arizona. Of those who have voted early so far, 525,647 are registered Republicans and 413,005 are registered Democrats. Of the remainder, 8,250 are classified “minor parties” and 283,531 are classified “other” or unaffiliated. If you assume that registered Republicans voted for Senate candidate Martha McSally and registered Democrats voted for Kyrsten Sinema in equal proportions, that gives McSally a 112,642-vote margin. That’s a sizable margin one week away from the election. To pull even the early vote, Sinema would need to be winning the unaffiliated and minor-party voters by a roughly 70-30 split.
Because there is a Green-party candidate (named, appropriately enough, Angela Green) and some of the state’s 6,463 registered members of the Green party no doubt voted for Green, Sinema would need to win the non-major-party vote by an even wider margin to pull even, maybe 71-29 or 72-28. What we don’t know in this equation is how many Arizonans will vote on Election Day...the higher the remaining turnout, the better chance she has of overcoming McSally’s advantage in the early vote. And it’s worth keeping in mind that it’s possible that Sinema is doing better among registered Republicans than McSally is among registered Democrats; the NBC poll showed Sinema winning Democrats 95 percent to 4 percent, while McSally’s margin among Republicans was 88 percent to 7 percent.
Geragthy concludes: "All in all, the McSally campaign and the Arizona GOP have done a phenomenal job of getting registered Republicans to vote early — and that might have given McSally a lead that turns out to be insurmountable." That's a huge "might." Heavy election day turnout among Democrats, McSally failing to consolidate GOP supporters (an issue we commented on in this post), and independents breaking disproportionately for Sinema could very plausibly combine to put the Democrat over the top, particularly in light of some of the polling. That also applies to the national EV numbers, which don't look too shabby for Republicans -- but wait for the disclaimers:
NBC: GOP *leads* in nationwide early voting, outperforming '16, but slightly underperforming '14. BIG caveats: (1) Dems felt good about EV #'s in key states last cycle & ended up losing. (2) GOP may be cannibalizing own ED vote & new (Dem) voter intensity could materialize Tues. pic.twitter.com/R6D0K4iYt9— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) November 1, 2018
More than 24 million early votes had been cast across the country as of yesterday, nearly doubling the total tally at this point in the 2014 cycle. Read Ed Morrissey's (mostly) sunny analysis on early voting if you want to feel better about next week. If you want to feel pessimistic, consider how independents are breaking for Democrats this year in virtually all polling, and remember that it's likely that Democrats are pulling over more registered Republicans than Republicans are pulling over registered Democrats this cycle. Those factors could overcome almost any GOP edge the party has built, at least in a lot of places. Finally, because this post started with the West Virginia race, I'll leave you with this ad running in the state:
UPDATE - As Katie touched on earlier, Republicans could do a lot worse than closing with their "better off now" slogan, given today's epic October jobs report:
Pretty much everything you could want in a monthly jobs report. Payroll gains way better than expected, nice pop in labor force participation, wage growth continues to strengthen, finally beating inflation (real gains!). Score 1 for "room-to-run" crowd!— Jared Bernstein (@econjared) November 2, 2018
And here's one more observation that explodes the media narrative that Republicans have been running away from or ignoring the tax law: