Battle for the Senate Going Down to the Wire

October 23, 2020

This article originally appeared on BIPAC's blog. Written by BIPAC Political Analyst Jim Ellis.

Key Takeaways

  • AK-Sen: Independent candidate makes big difference
  • GA-Sen B: Rep. Doug Collins (R) showing movement
  • KS, MI, MN, SC-Sens: More conflicting polling data
  • Iowa: Monmouth Univ.’s statewide poll of all Iowa CDs
  • PA-10: Rep. Scott Perry (R) returns to lead
  • MT-Gov: Rep. Greg Gianforte (R) opens lead in open race


Alabama:  Moore Information (10/11-14; 504 AL likely voters; live interview), consistent with previous polls, finds challenger Tommy Tuberville (R) holding a large 55-40% lead over Democratic first term Sen. Doug Jones.  FM3 Research, on the other hand (10/11-14; 801 AL voters; live interview), actually projects Sen. Jones to be holding a one point, 48-47%, edge.  This is the first poll of any kind to deliver such a result.  It is likely the latter poll is an outlier.

Alaska:  Independent Al Gross also won the Democratic Senate nomination and is appearing on the ballot as a representative of the major party.  Two new polls are out, both showing a close race, but Siena College/New York Times may be more accurate than Harstad Research because they included Alaskan Independence Party nominee John Howe on the ballot test questionnaire.  In the Harstad survey (10/10-13; 606 AK likely voters; live interview), the ballot test split, 47-46%, in favor of Dr. Gross.  Considering that Siena/NYT (10/9-14; 423 AK likely voters; live interview) found Mr. Howe attracting 10% support, the race changes significantly.  Here, Sen. Sullivan recoups the lead with a 45-37% split.  Mr. Howe’s presence on the ballot clearly makes a difference.

Arizona:  As usual, we see several polls being released of a race, with a wide range of results.  All show Democrat Mark Kelly leading, but the span is quite wide.  Each of the surveys were conducted between the October 13-21 period. 

The most favorable to Mr. Kelly comes from YouGov (10/13-16; 1,065 AZ registered voters; various online panels) and gives the Democrat an 11-point advantage, 52-41%.  Ipsos/ Reuters (10/14-21; 658 AZ likely voters; online interviews) gives Mr. Kelly a 51-43% margin.  The most favorable poll for appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R) comes from Rasmussen Reports/ Pulse Opinion Research (10/18-19; 800 AZ likely voters; live interview & online), which yields Mr. Kelly only a two-point edge, 46-44%.

Georgia-B:  The latest Emerson College poll (10/17-19; 506 GA likely voters) finds Georgia Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) making a move on the Senate special election field.  The Emerson survey projected Mr. Collins tied with Rev. Raphael Warnock (D) and ahead of Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) by seven percentage points. 

The Siena College/New York Times survey has a different take.  It’s new poll (10/13-19; 759 GA likely voters; live interview) sees Rev. Warnock, who is coalescing the Democratic vote around his candidacy, leading the pack with 32%, while Sen. Loeffler trails at 23% support.  Rep. Collins is back all the way to 17%.  This large disparity between the two surveys taken within the same time frame suggests that the entire special election jungle primary field is fluid.

Kansas:  In another instance of wide-ranging Senate polls, we show two more that may give us our largest spread.  Public Policy Polling (10/19-20; 897 KS voters; interactive voice response system) sees the open contest between Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend) and state Sen. Barbara Bollier (D-Mission Hills) as a dead heat tie, 43-43%, with Libertarian Jason Buckley taking 5% preference.  The co/efficient organization saw things wholly differently.  Their survey (10/18-20; 2,453 KS likely voters; online) sees Rep. Marshall opening up his biggest lead of the general election campaign, 51-39%.  Most data show the race close, but the Kansas voting history is more in line with the co/efficient result.

Kentucky:  The Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy company tested the Kentucky Senate race between Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) and his Democratic opponent, retired Marine Corps helicopter pilot Amy McGrath (10/12-16; 625 KY registered voters; live interview) and finds the Senator holding a 51-42% lead over Ms. McGrath, which is consistent with earlier polls.

Michigan:  Late this week, five different polls were released, with four producing similar results. Fox News (10/17-20; 1,032 MI likely voters; live interview), Data for Progress (10/15-18; 830 MI likely voters; online), Morning Consult (10/11-20; 1,717 MI likely voters; online), and Public Policy Polling (10/21-22; MI voters; interactive voice response system) all post Sen. Peters to a clear advantage, within five to nine percentage points. 

The Trafalgar Group, on the other hand (10/15-18; 1,034 MI likely voters; live interview & online), sees a much different result.  They find Mr. James holding a two-point lead, 50-48%.  If the Republican were to complete the upset, Trafalgar would again be in a position of calling a race correctly when all others would be proven incorrect.

Minnesota:  Yesterday, Survey USA released a new Minnesota Senate poll (10/16-20; 625 MN likely voters; live interview) that finds former US Rep. Jason Lewis (R) pulling to within one percentage point, 43-42%, of Sen. Tina Smith (D) as the two work toward the end of their respective campaign schedules.  Countering the S-USA poll is the Civiqs polling organization (for the Daily Kos Elections site; 10/17-20; 840 MN likely voters; online) that still projects Sen. Smith to be leading in low double-digits, 54-43%. 

South Carolina:  After Siena College/New York Times and the Morning Consult firm both released data last week posting Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) to respective six-point leads, the brilliant corners Research & Strategies firm (10/11-16; 525 SC likely voters; live interview) found Democrat Jaime Harrison rebounding.  Mr. Harrison, who clearly leads the money race with $86 million raised for the campaign, is up two percentage points, 47-45%, on the brilliant corners survey.  We can expect many more polls coming from this exciting Senate race in the closing week.


CA-4:  Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove/Sacramento) was thought to have one of the safest Republican seats in California.  A new poll and the financial disclosure report suggest this race is competitive, however.  Lake Research Partners (10/12-14; 948 CA-4 likely and early voters; interactive voice response system) released their latest northern California congressional survey and finds Rep. McClintock holding only a 49-45% lead over software executive Brynne Kennedy (D).  The challenger has also outraised the incumbent, $2.1 million to $1.85 million in total election cycle receipts.  Rep. McClintock is still the favorite, but this is yet one more House race to watch.

CA-53:  In the Southern California race to replace retiring Rep. Susan Davis (D-San Diego), two Democrats qualified for the general election under the state’s top-two primary system.  Survey USA polled this contest for local San Diego television station KGTV (10/15-18; 511 CA-53 likely voters; live interview) and found former State Department official Sara Jacobs posting a large lead over San Diego City Council President Georgette Gomez, 40-27%.  Ms. Jacobs is a second time congressional candidate, running for the first time in the San Diego-Orange County 49th District that Rep. Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano) currently represents.

Iowa:  Monmouth University’s registered voters’ statewide poll, which tends to reflect a mid-level turnout pattern, finds Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Dubuque) holding a 52-44% edge over state Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Cedar Rapids) in the eastern 1st District, former state Senator Rita Hart (D) posting a 49-43% lead over state Senator and former congressional candidate Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R) in the open 2nd District, Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Des Moines) posting a 53-42% mark over former Congressman David Young (R) in southwestern District 3, and state Sen. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull/Sioux County) leading Democrat J.D. Scholten, 48-42%, in the open western 4th CD.  Other firms find all of the races, with the exception of District 4, as polling much closer.

MI-3:  We’ve seen many examples this year of two polling firms surveying the same race at relatively the same time yet finding diverse results.  The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Targeting and Analytics Department (10/7-9; 449 MI-3 likely voters) finds Democrat Hillary Scholten leading military veteran and grocery store magnate Peter Meijer (R), 47-42%.  Conversely, National Research (10/5-7; 400 MI-3 likely voters) sees almost the exact opposite result: Mr. Meijer leading 50-43%.  The 3rd District is open because Libertarian Rep. Justin Amash (L-Cascade Township/Grand Rapids) is retiring.

MT-AL:  Another campaign that has polled tight for weeks is the open at-large seat in Montana.  Now, a new survey from Strategies 360 (10/15-20; 500 MT likely voters; online & text) confirms the trend, finding State Auditor Matt Rosendale (R) and former state Rep. Kathleen Williams (D) tied at 46%. 

OH-10:  Every election year, campaigns that don’t receive a lot of national attention often become competitive races.  In the Dayton area, veteran Rep. Mike Turner (R-Dayton) finds himself only leading law school graduate Desiree Tims (D), 49-45%, according to a Garin Hart Yang Research Group poll for the Tims campaign (10/15-18; 400 OH-10 likely voters; live interview).  Both candidates had raised approximately $1.5 million through September 30th.

OK-5:  The Oklahoma Sooner poll is out, and it shows that Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Oklahoma City) and state Sen. Stephanie Bice (R-Oklahoma City) are battling to the end in what again appears to be a toss-up campaign.  The Sooner Poll (10/16-20; 943 OK-5 likely voters; interactive voice response system) finds Rep. Horn leading Ms. Bice, 49-47%. 

The Horn lead may not be as it seems, however, because she is getting 69% support among the youngest voters, those under 34 years of age who have the lowest turnout rates.  Ms. Bice, on the other hand, leads among those over 50 years of age, the highest historical turnout group, by eight percentage points.

PA-8:  The 2017 court ordered redistricting plan gave Republicans some hope they could win the re-drawn 8th District that is anchored in the Scranton and Wilkes-Barre areas.  Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Moosic/Scranton) lost a large number of Democratic voters when the city of Easton was removed from his district.  Now, a new co/efficient firm poll (10/13-14; 615 PA-8 likely voters; interactive voice response & text) finds challenger Jim Bognet (R) within striking distance of Rep. Cartwright, trailing 43-48%.

PA-10:  Despite the last two polls giving challenger Eugene DePasquale (D) a lead over incumbent Rep. Scott Perry (R-Dillsburg/Harrisburg), a new Tarrance Group survey for the National Republican Congressional Committee (10/13-15; 400 PA-10 likely voters; live interview) sees the Congressman returning to the lead in a district that the state Supreme Court re-drew in 2017 as a more Democratic seat.  The Tarrance results find Rep. Perry holding a four-point edge, 48-44% over Pennsylvania State Auditor Eugene DePasquale (D).

SC-1:  The first two general election polls were released in the Charleston-anchored 1st District of South Carolina, and they couldn’t be more different.  Last week, the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research firm for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (10/5-7; 475 SC-1 likely voters; 75 over-sample of African American voters; live interview) found freshman Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-Charleston) developing a large lead over state Rep. Nancy Mace (R-Daniel Island), 55-42%.  This week, the Strategic National polling firm countered those numbers with a completely different take.  According to their survey (10/14-16; 400 SC-1 likely voters), Ms. Mace has a two-point 47-45% slight edge over the freshman incumbent.  This race is generally considered a toss-up.

TX-7:  GOP challenger Wesley Hunt was one of the strongest Republican challenger fundraisers in the nation during the 3rd quarter, raising over $2.8 million and actually overtaking Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Houston) by $300,000 in dollars raised for the campaign cycle.  A rare poll from the GS Strategy Group for the Hunt campaign also shows the Republican challenger within striking distance.  The survey (10/13-15; 400 TX-7 likely voters) posts Rep. Fletcher to only a 46-44% edge over Mr. Hunt, and 40-38% among the voters who say their vote is firm.  


Montana:  The aforementioned Strategies 360 Montana poll (10/15-20; 500 MT likely voters; online & text) also tested the open Governor’s race.  The ballot test finds US Rep. Greg Gianforte (R) taking a 48-41% lead over Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney (D) in the battle to replace term-limited Governor and US Senate candidate Steve Bullock (D).