Two Weeks, Two Rating Changes: Sabato’s Crystal Ball Moves PA Senate Race To ‘Toss-up’

It was less than two weeks ago that the Cook Political Report ​said Pat Toomey’s re-election chances have diminished, citing a “very difficult” path for him in the likely event that either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz becomes the Republican presidential nominee. The political analysts at Sabato’s Crystal Ball are doing the same today, changing their race rating from “Leans Republican” to “Toss-up.”

“Assuming the GOP nominee for the White House is either Trump or Ted Cruz, we think the Democrats will fare reasonably well down-ballot,” they write. Given recent polling that shows Trump and Cruz have net approval ratings of negative-38 and negative-27 with Pennsylvania voters, that seems like a safe assumption.

But it’s not just this analysis that should be troubling for Toomey. Even independent of the top of the ticket, Toomey’s candidacy is tanking. His “unfavorability ratings with Pennsylvania’s registered voters have risen sharply in recent months as his re-election campaign heats up,” noted the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review last week.

He won’t be able to escape questions about his refusal to do his job on the Supreme Court, or how he explains one of the most extreme records in Congress and his close ties to Wall Street — none of which has anything to do with Ted Cruz or Donald Trump. Undoubtedly their nomination will make it harder for Toomey to win re-election, but he hardly needs the help.


Sabato’s Crystal Ball: Senate/Governor 2016: Several Ratings Move Toward Democrats

By Larry J. Sabato, Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley – April 7, 2016

When you look at the big picture of presidential elections, and you try to discern the connection between the White House contest and the 34 Senate elections on the same ballot, it becomes obvious there are two types of years.

The first type we might call “disjointed.” Voters seem to be separating their judgments about these very distinct offices in most competitive races. The presidential candidate who wins adds only a handful — or fewer — additional Senate seats to his party’s total. The presidential coattails are short.

The second type could be termed “intertwined.” The candidates for the White House are very polarizing and distinct, and one or both major-party contenders color the voters’ perceptions of all officeholders on the same partisan label. The party whose letter (D or R) becomes toxic loses a substantial number of Senate seats; thus, the presidential coattails are long.

… No one can say for sure to which category 2016 will belong, but our early expectation is “intertwined.” Considering the rise of Donald Trump, the polarization in U.S. politics, and a higher rate of straight-ticket voting, this could be bad news for the GOP. We have already sketched out a “Trumpmare” doomsday presidential scenario for the Republicans, who control the Senate now by a margin of 54 to 46. Assuming the GOP nominee for the White House is either Trump or Ted Cruz, we think the Democrats will fare reasonably well down-ballot (more so with Trump than Cruz, though Cruz will also have a difficult time carrying many swing states). As shown in Chart 1, in recent presidential cycles, about 80% of states with Senate elections have backed the same party for the presidency and the Senate. In light of the fact that Republicans control 24 of the 34 seats up in 2016, including many in states that President Obama won in 2008 and/or 2012, straight-ticket voting could bode poorly for the GOP.

Chart 1: Percentage of straight-ticket vs. split-ticket states for president and Senate in presidential cycles, 1916-2012

… As we explain below, the Crystal Ball is changing six Senate race ratings, all in a Democratic direction. This does not mean Democrats will actually win all six, though one was already leaning toward the Democrats. As for the other five, two races are now designated pure Toss-ups, and the three other states where we are making a change still favor Republicans, though less so than earlier. There is a clear if premature trend here.

Pennsylvania: … The primary dissension would seem to benefit Toomey, who like Portman is going to be very well-funded, but Toomey faces the same challenges Portman does (and maybe more so) in having to run significantly ahead of his top-of-the-ticket Republican “running mate” in November. Toomey’s reelection bid is now also a Toss-up, instead of Leans Republican, and it has very little to do with the particulars of the Senate race in Pennsylvania. Rather, it’s because of the potential for the GOP nominee to drag down Toomey even against a relatively mediocre opponent.


Read the full piece here.