Uphill Senate Challenges

As the Senate races begin to move through primary election season and onto the general, a number already fall into the top tier competitive realm while several more will knock on that door.

Two in the latter category are seeing movement in early polling, but underlying trends suggest that scoring Senate upsets in Pennsylvania and Texas is even more difficult than what a challenger typically faces.

Two new polls indicate that the Pennsylvania Senate race is getting closer. Susquehanna Research just released a statewide survey completed in early March (2/27-3/5; 450 PA likely voters; live interview) that projects Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. (D) leading former hedge fund CEO David McCormick (R) by a 48-42% margin. The result is virtually the same as the firm found in January (Casey leading 46-42%), but considerably different than the twelve point Casey advantage they detected in their survey from ten months ago.

Emerson College, polling for The Hill newspaper (3/10-13; 1,000 PA registered voters; multiple sampling techniques), sees an even tighter 52-48% margin when the undecided respondents are pushed for an answer.

While the current tendencies appear to give Mr. McCormick’s some momentum, the voter history, and legacy of the Casey family – aside from Sen. Casey winning three US Senate terms, the incumbent’s father, Bob Casey, Sr., served two terms as Governor and eight years as Attorney General – suggest upending the Senator remains a very tall order.

The latest Texas statewide survey finds Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) leading US Rep. Colin Allred (D-Dallas) by a relatively small margin. Marist College (3/18-21; 1,117 TX registered voters; multiple sampling techniques) projects Sen. Cruz as holding a 51-45% advantage over Mr. Allred. A month ago, the University of Texas found the Senator recording a 12-point lead. In January, Emerson College saw Mr. Cruz claiming only a two-point edge.

It would not be surprising to see a similar zig-zag pattern continue through the bulk of the election period. Because Sen. Cruz’s favorability numbers tend to be below average for a two-term incumbent, the issue matrix within this campaign cycle, particularly in Texas, will favor the Republican office holder.

Though Rep. Allred is certainly a credible Democratic challenger it is difficult to see Sen. Cruz, or any Lone Star State Republican, losing. President Joe Biden leading the Democratic ticket and having to defend his energy and border policy stances in a state where his party hasn’t scored a major statewide win since 1994 increases the difficulty factor for a Democratic upset at all political levels. Therefore, expect to see differing polls throughout the campaign cycle, but the actual election will likely culminate in a Cruz victory margin of at least five percentage points.

Democrats nationally face a treacherous path toward retaining their small Senate majority, but Republicans also face severe pressure. Currently, with absorbing an almost sure defeat in the West Virginia race without Sen. Joe Manchin (D) seeking re-election, the body is effectively at 50D – 50R. Since Texas is their only quasi-legitimate offensive target, the current majority party finds themselves in a situation of being forced to run the table in their competitive defensive races such as those in Arizona, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Wisconsin, and of course, Pennsylvania.

Even with a substantial resource advantage, sweeping the competitive contests, particularly when factoring that former President Trump will carry two, and possibly as many as seven of the eight aforementioned Democratic defense states, the task of holding the majority becomes even more daunting.

Republicans, however, face their own obstacles. While the political map favors them this year, the Democrats have the advantage in the 2026 and 2028 Senate election cycles. Therefore, to sustain a potential majority beyond the next Congress, the Republicans need to exceed a simple majority and secure 53 or 54 seats to protect themselves against rocky political landscapes in the succeeding cycles.

Though the Pennsylvania and Texas Senate races will generate national attention and be heavily polled during this year’s political prime time, intrinsic influences and typical voting trends suggest that challengers forging wins in these two places are more difficult than those already rated as top tier campaigns. 

Showing 1 reaction

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.