Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is expanding his lead over Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky, Georgia’s GOP Senate candidate has a 4-point lead over the Democrat, and embattled Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana is leading her Republican opponent but is likely to lose a runoff to maintain her seat, according to a series of Marist polls released Sunday. The polls are indications of what political observers have been predicting all year: Republicans will take over the Senate from Democrats in the 2014 midterm elections.
Two of those three races -- Kentucky and Georgia -- are Republican-held seats that Democrats hope to pick up on Tuesday. The Louisiana seat is among six that the GOP would need to pick up to take control of the Senate. With polls showing Republicans leading in four of eight battleground races, closely competing in the four others and likely to flip Arkansas’ Senate seat red, the GOP seems primed for a victory on Tuesday.
While this year’s races are closer, the GOP is still more likely to win the Senate than Democrats. Republican pollster Bill McInturff used a football analogy to compare this years’ midterms with 2010, when Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives amid the unpopularity of Obamacare: “2010 was a kind of two-touchdown, embarrassing loss” for Democrats, he told the Wall Street Journal. “This is more, Republicans win on a field goal.”
Polls show McConnell pulling away from Grimes, who had Bill and Hillary Clinton campaign with her. A Bluegrass Poll from late October showed the senate minority leader with a 1-point lead over Kentucky’s Democratic Secretary of State, 44 percent to 43 percent. But McConnell’s slim lead has since widened. A Bluegrass Poll from Thursday showed him with a 5-point lead over Grimes, 48 percent to 43 percent. Sunday’s Marist survey had McConnell with a 9-point lead, 50 percent to 41 percent.
“McConnell has a strong lead in the closing days of the campaign,” Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, said. “Not only does McConnell still attract support from many more Democrats than Grimes receives from Republicans, but the gender gap has pretty much vanished with McConnell now leading Grimes among both men and women.”
In Georgia, Republican candidate David Perdue has a 4-point lead over Democrat Michelle Nunn, 48 percent to 44 percent, according to the Marist poll. The race will head to a runoff if neither candidate receives 50 percent of the vote. Libertarian candidate Amanda Swafford is polling at 3 percent. Marist said Perdue’s lead among independents has him ahead of Nunn, the daughter of former Georgia Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn. Perdue leads Michelle Nunn in a potential runoff, 49 percent to 46 percent.
Another race that appears headed for a runoff is Louisiana, where Landrieu, the unpopular incumbent, is leading the state’s three-way race for Senate, but would lose in a two-way runoff, according to Marist. The poll shows Landrieu losing to both of her most likely runoff opponents, Republican Bill Cassidy and tea party Republican Rob Maness.
Landrieu leads the three-way race, 44 percent to Cassidy’s 36 percent and Maness’s 15 percent, the poll found. But Cassidy would beat the incumbent in a two-way race, 50 percent to 45 percent. So would Maness, whom the poll shows leading Landrieu, 50 percent to 46 percent.
“Landrieu is well positioned to lead the field this Tuesday,” Miringoff said. “But, she would face an uphill fight to keep her seat against Bill Cassidy, her likely opponent in a runoff.”