I figure I should begin with a disclaimer: with the midterms now three weeks away, expect this site’s content to shift slightly. In lieu of longer, infrequent articles, I’ll start posting shorter, regular posts (like this one). This approach better captures a “blog” feel and allows me to provide as-it-happens takes.
Okay, with that out the way, let’s not bury the lede — the Republican Party should be pretty optimistic about its fortunes in the Senate right now. Since the beginning of October, their chances to maintain control of Congress’s upper chamber have steadily increased. This is because of many factors, but the one I want to focus on today is the growing safety of two GOP-held seats that were earlier considered tossups, Texas and Tennessee.
As I’ve written before, Texas is home to perhaps the most closely watched Senate race of 2018. Republican incumbent Ted Cruz has experienced a considerable challenge from Democrat Beto O’Rourke, with one September poll from Reuters/Ipsos even showing Cruz behind. In recent weeks, though, Cruz has managed to gain back. Indeed, four very recent polls have all shown Cruz in the lead, at an average of 8 points.
The most important thing to note about these Texas polls is that the undecideds are finally filling out; the aforementioned four surveys each put Cruz above the magic 50% threshold he needs to win. Every single poll before had both candidates below that benchmark, so the fact that Cruz is finally passing it could mean GOP voters are coming home to him.
This same story is playing out in Tennessee, where an open seat has pitted Republican Marsha Blackburn against Democrat Phil Bredesen. After Taylor Swift endorsed Bredesen last week, pieces were quickly written about how the already close race could change. That hasn’t exactly happened.
The only poll we’ve gotten post-Swift is from the New York Times/Siena. Not only did it agree with a previous GBS/YouGov survey that had Blackburn passing 50%, but it put her 14 points ahead of Bredesen. With the sample size so small, it will be important to see what subsequent polls say.
Interestingly, two surveys from early September put Bredesen just above 50%, but Blackburn was on his heels even then. Nevertheless, the newest polls from Tennessee show the Republican with a comfortable lead. Call it what you want, but with Blackburn ahead by an average of 4 points, Bredesen appears to be playing from behind right now.
That’s a lot of polling, so what can we take away from all this? The Senate seats in Texas and Tennessee don’t seem as vulnerable as they were a month ago, but the races are still pretty close. Thankfully, we don’t have to wait much longer for winners to be crowned.