We are officially seven days from Election Day! Celebrate or panic as you wish.
Much has changed since our previous ranking of Senate seats most likely to flip, with some candidates pulling ahead while other races tightened up. One contest no longer on the list is North Carolina, largely thanks to an onslaught of ads from Republican groups that has helped Representative Ted Budd to pull ahead of Cheri Beasley, and to which Democrats have failed to respond in kind.
Meanwhile, things are heating up in Arizona, which returns to our ranking. And while Representative Tim Ryan put up an impressive fight against Republican JD Vance during their debates, it appears Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s onslaught of money has given the troubled Republican nominee the steam he needed to pull away.
With that, here’s your final ranking of the top five Senate seats most likely to flip. Yell at us accordingly.
We keep telling you: it all comes down to Nevada. We’re now at that inevitable moment in the election cycle where political nerds everywhere start furiously refreshing their Twitter feeds to catch Jon Ralston’s latest updates on early voting in the state. Writing on The Nevada Independent’s early voting blog Monday, he reported that roughly a third of the speculated vote is already in, and that so far, Democrats lead with mail-in voters while Republicans lead among in-person early voters. The latest New York Times/Siena College poll shows a virtual dead heat between Senator Catherine Cortez Masto and her Republican opponent Adam Laxalt, who this weekend faced a brutal story that his campaign paid an operative who ran an antisemitic Twitter account.
Both are calling in the big guns: Former president Donald Trump campaigned in Minden with Laxalt last month, while, Barack Obama, who won Nevada twice, will shortly be heading to Las Vegas. Senator Elizabeth Warren will arrive the day after, and Bernie Sanders – who won the Nevada caucus in 2020 thanks to his support among Latino voters – is planning a visit of his own.
Last week, a hot mic caught Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer telling President Joe Biden that while the Senate debate in Pennsylvania “didn’t hurt us too much” and Democrats were “picking up steam in Nevada,” despite early voting, “the state where we’re going downhill is Georgia”.
That might shock some, especially given the allegations that Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker paid for one woman’s abortion and drove another to an abortion clinic, to say nothing of the embarrassing incident when he flashed a faux police badge in his debate with Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock. Yet recent polls from both InsiderAdvantage/Fox 5 and the Atlanta Journal Constitution gave Walker a three-point lead. This, as the Times/Siena College poll found Warnock enjoys the same advantage. No major poll currently gives either candidate a majority of the vote, and under Georgia law, if that doesn’t change on Election Day, it will go to a runoff.
That moves Georgia up a spot on our list, overtaking…
Pennsylvania moves down one on our list simply because it has too many variables at work. Democrats fretted about Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman’s performance during his sole debate against Republican television physician Mehmet Oz — but they have taken full advantage of that fact that Oz declared that same night that “abortion should be the business of a woman, her doctor, and her local political leaders”. The TV doctor was roundly mocked for suggesting that “local political leaders” had a place in a woman’s private decision.
Some polls have shown that Dr Oz has taken the lead (though we explained the pros and cons of the InsiderAdvantage poll last week). Some partisan polls have come out. The Times/Siena poll showed Fetterman in the lead and Oz’s unfavorables still high – but as Manu Raju at CNN tweeted, pollsters were mainly in the field the day before and during the debate, and only picked up respondents for one day afterward. That makes it difficult to know what the lay of land is today.
Wisconsin in fourth place is less a testament to Democrats’ competitiveness there than a recognition on our part that North Carolina and Arizona are even less likely to flip.
Put simply, time is running out for the Badger State’s Democratic Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes. He recently had the benefit of a visit by Obama, who torched incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson in a fiery speech in Milwaukee – yielding one exegesis on social security that’s been viewed more than 14 million times on Twitter – but it likely came too late.
Even after two debates, Johnson is still in the lead, whether by as little as one point (according to a CNN poll) or as much as six points (per a Marquette University Law School survey). There may be a week left for Barnes to flip the script, but it’s not likely.
The contest between Democratic Senator Mark Kelly and Blake Masters creeps up from being off our list entirely to rounding it off. While the nonpartisan Cook Political Report has moved it back from “lean Democratic” to “tossup”, polling shows Masters, a Trump-backed protégé of right-wing venture capitalist Peter Thiel, has tightened up the race — but he still trails Kelly.
The two have had a change to square off in their debate, but Kelly still enjoys a significant money advantage while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has forsaken Masters. And while Axios reports that the right-wing Club for Growth has dropped a whopping $5.5m in the final days of the race, the Times/Siena survey still found Kelly enjoying a six-point lead.