Three long-shot Senate races worth polling: Idaho, Nebraska, and South Dakota

Three long-shot Senate races worth polling: Idaho, Nebraska, and South Dakota

On Sunday I wrote that it would be really helpful to have statewide polling in some Senate races that look on the surface like safe bets for the GOP, but might actually be worth contesting.

The reason for this is that, not only are the 4 Senate seats most likely to flip from GOP to Democrat — Colorado, Arizona, Maine, and North Carolina — all showing consistent leads for the Democratic challenger in the past two months, but in several other States — most notably Iowa and Kansas — the democrat has *also* taken the lead, in the case of Iowa, a small but consistent one. In several other States — Alaska and South Carolina — the democrat has polled within striking distance in one or more recent polls.

Because there is no Senate polling available in other States, I have created a spreadsheet (below)  showing the 2016 Presidential result, and 2020 Presidential and Senate polling both in the contested States that we know of, and the States where we are flying blind. The final column is the direction of change comparing 2016 vs. 2020 Presidential polling followed by 2016 Presidential result vs. 2020 Senate polling. Discussion follows below the chart (numbers are %-ages):

State 2016
Change from
Alaska T+14.7 T+3 D-9 D+11.7, D+5.7
Iowa T+9.4 T+1 D+2 D+8.4, D+11.4
Kansas T+20.5 T+12 D+1 D+8.5, D+22.5
Montana T+20.2 T+9 Even D+11.2, D+20.2
Nebraska-2^ T+2 B+7 N/a D+9, N/a
S. Carolina T+14.3 T+5 D-4 D+9.3, D+10.3
Idaho T+21.7 N/a N/a N/a
Nebraska T+25.0 N/a N/a N/a
N. Dakota T+45.7 T+17*(*Mar) N/a D+28.7, N/a
S. Dakota T+29.8 N/a N/a N/a
West Virginia T+42.1 T+35*(*Jan) N/a D+7.1, N/a
Wyoming T+46.3 N/a N/a N/a

^Congressional District

Generally speaking, note that in all States where available, there has been roughly a 10% swing in the Presidential vote from Trump to Biden +/-1.7%. The Senate results have been much more volatile, ranging from +5.7% to +22.5%, suggesting that they are much more candidate-specific.

While most other States are out of reach, Idaho’s Trump margin from 2016 is very close to that of Montana and Kansas, and Nebraska is not too far behind. South Dakota might even be at least worth a look. The other States look out of reach under almost any scenario.

Bottom line: based on the surprisingly positive result in one poll in Alaska, money has already flowed into that race to assist the Democrat getting on the air. At very least it would be worth polling in Idaho and Nebraska, and maybe even South Dakota to see if it would be worthwhile to take a long shot and make those candidates more viable as well.

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