Senate Polls Show Possible Last-Minute Democrat Surge

With five Senate races too close to call, the outcome will depend on voter turnout.

Two days before the midterm elections, there are signs that Democratic Senate candidates might be gaining on their Republican opponents. A number of polls released over the first days of November show Beto O’Rourke in Texas, Kirsten Sinema in Arizona, and Phil Bredesen gaining ground.

In Texas, a Change Research poll found O’Rourke tied with Republican Senator Ted Cruz at 49 percent after weeks of Cruz holding a solid lead. In early October, Cruz held a solid lead averaging in the high single-digits, but polling over the last two weeks showed O’Rourke narrowing the race.

The Change Research poll of 1,211 likely voters showed Cruz with near unanimous support among Republicans, but with O’Rourke leading other groups. O’Rourke has “over 99% of Clinton 2016 voters, over 90% among Jill Stein voters, and double-digit leads with 2016 non-voters and Gary Johnson voters,” the organization posted on Twitter.

In Tennessee, another race that has been trending toward the Republican candidate, Marsha Blackburn, in recent weeks, a new poll suddenly put Democrat Phil Bredesen back in the race. The Targoz poll of 480 likely voters has a small sample size and comes after three consecutive polls showing Blackburn with a lead of more than five points.

In Arizona, the polling is erratic and swings wildly from one candidate to the other. Of the two polls taken in November, one favors Republican Martha McSally by 5.6 points and the other favors Democrat Sinema by three points. The Trafalgar poll favoring Sinema has a sample size of 2,166 likely voters, which is more than three times as large as the 600 voters sampled in the Harris poll that favored McSally.

The state of the races in Florida and Missouri are also very close. Polling in Florida varies between showing leads for incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican challenger, Rick Scott. In Missouri, Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill and Republican Josh Hawley are locked in another margin of error race. The most recent poll there has the largest sample size, 1,424 voters, had the two candidates tied at 47 percent.

A possible explanation for the shakeup is President Trump’s concentration on illegal immigration and the migrant caravan moving through Mexico. The president’s rhetoric, including a statement that soldiers would shoot members of the caravan who throw rocks, may have inspired some moderates and independents to oppose Republican candidates. President Trump’s plan to issue an Executive Order to end birthright citizenship may also have inspired opposition among swing voters in addition to exciting his base.

While the polling appears to show a slight surge for Democrats in several races, it is too early to tell whether this represents a fluke or if there is a legitimate last-minute rally. It is very possible that the polls represent outliers that do not accurately report a change in the status of the race.

Since three of these very close races are for Republican seats, if the polling is correct, Democrat hopes for a Senate majority remain alive. To make it a reality though, Democrats would have to sweep all five states since Heidi Heitkamp‘s seat in North Dakota will go red.

With only one day left before the election, the answer is likely to be found only when the official election results come in on Tuesday night. With at least five Senate races too close to call, it will come down to which side is able to better motivate their supporters to get to the polls.

[Photo credits: Beto O'Rourke/Flickr and Micheal Vadon/Wikimedia]

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