Election 2020 Weekly Roundup
October 26, 2020
Our ‘Election 2020 Weekly Roundup’ takes a look at the latest updates in the presidential race between President Trump and former Vice President Biden as we approach the one-week milestone before the election, in addition to the key Senate contests from across the country. Today, we examine the notable new developments in the competitive Senate races in Arizona, Iowa, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
With just over a week until the election, the latest developments in the presidential race include a new COVID-19 cluster detected among Vice President Pence’s staff, former Vice President Biden and President Trump taking part in the final debate, and Judge Amy Coney Barrett set to be confirmed to the Supreme Court. Over the weekend, news broke that Pence’s Chief of Staff and several aides had tested positive for COVID-19, and the White House had attempted to block the information from going public. This has raised additional questions over the administration’s handling of the pandemic, particularly in light of comments made by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows that the administration wasn’t trying to reduce cases of the virus nationally, and was focused on developing a vaccine and immunity. President Trump’s handling of the virus was also a hot-button topic at the final debate between the candidates, which was held last Thursday evening. Among other subjects, the economy, health care, and national security were discussed. Both candidates largely stuck to their script during the event, but both acted with more decorum than in the previous debate, where interruptions and shouting were commonplace. Finally, Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court is set to be confirmed in the Senate, with Trump planning on hosting a swearing-in ceremony for her at the White House. This could prove to be a critical moment, as Biden has previously said he would tell voters his opinion on so-called “court packing” based on the outcome of Barrett’s nomination.
In the latest polling data, former Vice President Biden holds a 9-point edge over President Trump nationally, and crucially, also maintains an advantage in several battleground states. Swing states such as Arizona, Florida, Iowa, and Pennsylvania are all leaning toward Biden according to the latest polling, with him up by 4 points, 3 points, 3 points, and 6 points respectively. Biden’s national lead of 9 points is down from his high of 11 points, but is still a substantial margin as we approach the final week before Election Day. Additionally, President Trump continues to trail in several states that he carried in 2016, including Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, and North Carolina. He does however lead in Texas and Ohio, albeit by slim margins, which highlight that even those states are certainly in play for former Vice President Biden. Overall, the states where the gap between the two candidates is especially tight are Georgia, Ohio, North Carolina, and Texas.
Arizona, Martha McSally (R) vs. Mark Kelly (D)
The Senate race in Arizona has tightened in recent days, with incumbent Republican Sen. Martha McSally narrowing her overall deficit to Democratic challenger Mark Kelly. Kelly has led McSally in most polls over the course of the last few months and continues to do so. However, one of last week’s multiple surveys indicated a 3-point margin in McSally’s favor. This will be a boon to McSally’s campaign, especially considering most polls currently show former Vice President Biden ahead of President Trump in the presidential race, despite Arizona traditionally being a Republican stronghold. The race in Arizona could prove critical in deciding who wins the majority in the Senate, with both parties pouring money into advertising throughout the state. Arizona was one of several states specifically targeted by Democrats leading into the election cycle, and Mark Kelly has proven to be an extremely capable candidate. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report currently rates the race as “leaning Democrat” and with just over a week until the election, Kelly is in pole position to win the seat even as McSally attempts to make up ground. In the overall poll averages from all of the latest surveys, Kelly holds a 5.5% lead over McSally, 49.0% to 43.5%.
Iowa, Joni Ernst (R) vs. Theresa Greenfield (D)
With just over a week until the election, Iowa’s Senate race is neck and neck. Incumbent Republican Sen. Joni Ernst is attempting to stave off a challenge from Democrat Theresa Greenfield, and polls show the two locked in a dead heat. Among the major, credible pollsters, the only consensus is that the candidates are within 1 to 3 points of each other. The Cook Political Report rates the race as a “toss-up” and the polls support this – as the poll averages from the latest surveys have Greenfield up by a miniscule 1.2%, 46.0% to 44.8%. Despite several polls indicating Greenfield in the lead, Iowa was never really thought to be in play for Democrats. Greenfield has outperformed expectations, which has led to both parties pouring money into the state to try and secure the seat. Ernst is a staunch ally of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and has been endorsed by President Trump, which makes the tight race even more intriguing. Iowa has trended Republican in recent years, with President Trump carrying the state by 9 points in 2016. Now however, Theresa Greenfield’s strong performance and fundraising ability has put Iowa’s Senate seat in play for Democrats as they seek to secure the Senate majority.
North Carolina, Thom Tillis (R) vs. Cal Cunningham (D)
The North Carolina Senate race between incumbent Republican Thom Tillis and Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham continues to be one of the most closely-watched and competitive in the country. The contest has drawn a significant amount of attention, and as a result, a large number of new surveys have been conducted in recent weeks – particularly to gauge the electorate’s voting preferences in the aftermath of the Cunningham texting scandal. In the multitude of polls that have been taken over the past two weeks, Cunningham remains in a strong position, as he holds a lead or is tied in all of them. According to these figures, his advantage over Tillis falls in the range of 1 and 6 percentage points. Cunningham is ahead by a margin of this size in 8 of the last 10 surveys, while the other 2 show the candidates locked in a dead heat. In the overall poll averages from the latest data, Cunningham has an approximately 3-point lead on the incumbent, 47.5% to 44.3%. Despite him maintaining a consistent advantage, it is important to note that the gap is certainly within the margin of error for most surveys, as this tends to be anywhere between 2 and 5 percentage points. Therefore, on the basis of the polling patterns, Cunningham will likely be the slight favorite on Election Day, but with the understanding that either candidate has the potential of pulling out a win in this race.
South Carolina, Lindsey Graham (R) vs. Jaime Harrison (D)
After incumbent Republican Senator Lindsey Graham was found to be ahead of Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison by a 6-point margin in two mid-October surveys, Harrison now has a 2-point edge in the latest poll conducted by Morning Consult a few days ago. The high-profile South Carolina Senate race remains one of the tightest in the country, with Graham holding on to a narrow approximately 1-point lead in the poll averages from the most recent surveys, 46.0% to 44.8%. In fact, it is so incredibly close that 7 of the last 10 polls have shown the race to be tied or within a mere 2 percentage points. In addition to its competitiveness, the race has also drawn the biggest fundraising figures nationwide, with over $174 million raised between the two respective candidates – significantly more than the around $145 million raised in each of the country’s 2nd and 3rd most expensive Senate contests in Arizona and Kentucky. Harrison himself became the first U.S. Senate candidate in American history to surpass the $100 million mark for fundraising and spending earlier this month, and at the pace that they are currently on, Harrison and Graham are on track to approach $200 million combined by the end of the campaign cycle. With respect to the outcome of this race, the polling trend and historically high fundraising efforts demonstrate that it continues to be a complete toss-up as we enter the final days before the election.