How Republicans Could Lose Delaware, Washington, and California and Still Win the Senate

In the wake of a new poll from Quinnipiac that shows Republican Linda McMahon trailing Democratic Attorney General Richard Blumenthal in Connecticut's Senate race by just five points, the New York Times' Nate Silver proposes a new game plan for Republicans looking to take over the Senate: ditch Delaware, Washington, and California, and focus instead on Connecticut and West Virginia.

Christine O'Donnell's GOP primary win in Delaware tipped the scales toward Democrats there, and recent polling in Washington and California has shown Democrats with slight leads. While these states have been pivotal in projections of how Republicans could win the Senate, Silver notes that the GOP could lose all three of these states and, if it won Connecticut and West Virginia, which haven't previously been in play, still gain a majority in the upper chamber.

Polling from West Virginia shows Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin losing his lead:

A new Rasmussen Reports poll out this morning gives the Republican, John Raese, a 2-point lead over the Democrat, Gov. Joe Manchin III. This comes on the heels of a Public Policy Polling survey released two weeks ago that gave Mr. Raese a 3-point advantage.

The obvious conclusion is that West Virginia is a tossup, maybe even leaning in Mr. Raese's direction. The only caution I'd urge is that this is an unusual race that would probably benefit from more polling: voters in the Mountain State like Mr. Manchin, but they do not like the agenda of President Obama or the Congressional Democrats -- as Mr. Manchin, who yesterday called for repeal of parts of the Democrats' health care bill, has surely become aware. Having a number of polls to evaluate might give us a better read on how West Virginians are planning to resolve this dilemma.

On the Connecticut front, Silver notes the new Quinnipiac poll, which gives McMahon 46 percent to Blumenthal's 49, as well as Blumenthal's shrinking lead in a recent Rasmussen poll. While the race is surely in play, Silver does not think the new polls are a death knell for Democrats:

Our forecasting model -- which has not yet incorporated these two new polls -- has generally been quite skeptical of Ms. McMahon's chances. There are two reasons for this, one of which seems prudent to me and the other of which I'm a little wary of.

The first reason is that there are few undecideds in the race -- Quinnipiac shows 4 percent of the electorate having yet to make a decision, and Rasmussen only 3 percent. While I'd caution against an overly literal interpretation of the term "undecideds" -- some voters who call themselves undecided probably aren't really so, and some voters who say they have made up their minds can change them -- our research shows unambiguously that fewer undecided voters means less volatility and uncertainty in the outcome of a race. Thus, even if Mr. Blumenthal's lead is only 4 points -- the average of the two polls released this morning -- it may be a rather solid 4-point lead. ...

One other reason for Democrats to be only somewhat worried about the Connecticut polling -- as opposed to incredibly worried -- is that Rasmussen polling's has had somewhat Republican-leaning results throughout this cycle, and Quinnipiac has as well recently after having switching over to its likely voter model. As Connecticut has now taken on a pivotal role in the battle for control of the Senate, we will probably see some additional polling firms enter the state, and they may show slightly better results for Mr. Blumenthal. In the meantime, an internal poll released by Mr. Blumenthal's campaign gives him a 12-point advantage -- although since internal polls "cheat," on average, by about 5 or 6 points in their candidate's direction, it is not necessarily incompatible with the independent polling.

Read the full story at the New York Times.

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Nicole Allan is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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