Ellison’s Election Tip Sheet

Homestretch Polls

Ellison Barber election tip sheet

With four days left until election days—here are three polls, from this week, that should be on your radar.

SENATE: ARKANSAS

Arkansas seems to be comfortably creeping into the Republican category with Rep. Tom Cotton holding a consistent lead that is often around 5 points and slightly outside of the margin of error.

A University of Arkansas poll found Cotton with his biggest lead to date, placing him thirteen points ahead of incumbent Mark Pryor.

University of Arkansas writes:

The 16th annual Arkansas Poll found an electorate more pessimistic about the direction of Arkansas and more optimistic about their personal future. Likely voters prefer Republican candidates, although a record significant gap divides male and female voters.

Among very likely voters, Tom Cotton, the Republican candidate, maintains a significant lead over Democrat Mark Pryor, at 49 percent to 36 percent. That gap widens significantly among men, with 57 percent of very likely voters favoring Cotton versus 36 percent for Pryor. On the other hand, women showed no clear preference, with both Cotton and Pryor at 42 percent.

Cotton is a particularly strong candidate, and Pryor has a lot of obstacles to overcome in a state that is very red—and the president’s nearly sixty percent disapproval is a big one. A thirteen-point lead seems a bit high, but Cotton is clearly holding a steady lead. It would be surprising if he lost.

SENATE: ALASKA

Two polls have found Democratic Sen. Mark Begich up in Alaska, a switch from the last month.

The New York Times notes:

Recent polls suggest that Mark Begich, the Democratic senator, has made gains over recent weeks. The new polls, the first to show Mr. Begich ahead in more than a month, add considerable uncertainty to a race in a state that has a history of inaccurate polling. But even if Mr. Begich does not lead, he is most likely within striking distance, especially given the unusually robust Democratic turnout effort that is taking place.

The state fell off the radar over the last few weeks because just about every unsponsored survey was showing Dan Sullivan, the Republican, in the lead. But over the last few days, two Alaska-based pollsters have shown Mr. Begich with a substantial lead.

On Friday, Hellenthal and Associates, a Republican-leaning Alaska-based firm, showed Mr. Begich ahead by a 10-point margin. Mr. Sullivan led by 4.5 points in the last Hellenthal poll, conducted in mid-September. […]

Then, on Monday evening, Ivan Moore Research showed Mr. Begich ahead by a modest margin. The poll offered two results, one with a loose and one with a tight likely voter screen. Mr. Begich led by seven points among fairly likely voters, and led by eight points among the most likely voters.

Alaska is difficult to poll, and it’s worth noting Alaska politicos often contend Hellenthal has a spotty track record—it is the polling firm that said Sullivan was down in the primary in July, and Sullivan went on to win by eight. Still it’s a noteworthy change—and from what I hear, Republicans are worried about this race and their concern is partly because their internal pollster is telling them they should be (even though a recent internal poll found Sullivan up by four).

There’s an argument that Begich has built an "unprecedented" ground game that might help him hold on, but whenever there’s a story like that and I speak to Republicans in Alaska or even people working for the committees in D.C., they all push back on it very strongly.

Republicans have improved their ground game across the board, and they swear up and down theirs is strong in Alaska and largely depends on using local volunteers—which they say is more effective than bringing in staffers who are not from Alaska, which they say Democrats are doing.

Is that true? Who knows. This is a race that will come down to the wire, and if you made me bet on it I would not be wiling to put more than five dollars on the table, because it seems like a fifty percent chance my prediction would be wrong.

Sullivan is a good candidate, and is certainly forcing Begich to fight tooth and nail for his seat, but Alaska is difficult to poll, and when so many of the outside polls are falling in the margin of error it’s very difficult to see a pattern that suggests the race will go one way or the other.

This race will be the most fun to watch on Tuesday.

SENATE: NORTH CAROLINA

An internal poll released by the Thom Tillis’ campaign shows the Republican in a dead heat with Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan.

Politico reports:

North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis’ internal poll shows him tied with Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, consistent with more recent public polling of the race that shows Tillis closing the gap as the campaigns comes to an end.

The poll, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies for Tillis’ campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee and shared first with POLITICO, shows the two candidates deadlocked at 44 percent. The survey shows libertarian Sean Haugh receiving 7 percent of the support, while 5 percent remain undecided.

This poll shows the race as incredibly close in the final days, and it also found that both candidates have fairly low approval ratings, but Obama’s approval rating in North Carolina is even lower and that likely hurts Hagan.

However, Hagan has been ahead in almost every single outside poll since the beginning of September, and the big takeaway from the Tillis poll actually comes from another story that was released shortly after.

According to a report in the Washington Examiner, the campaign’s chief strategist told donors in a conference call that this poll was the "first time we’ve had it dead even … We’ve consistently tracked two to three points down."

That’s not a good sign for Republicans. For the past couple of months this race has appeared to be slipping away from Republicans, with Hagan looking much stronger than anyone expected 6 months ago. The internal polling from the Tillis’ campaign reiterates that.

Rather than prove they have momentum, it adds to the evidence and outside polling that suggests this race in leaning blue.