Key Senate Races Get Tighter

A couple of senate races that looked as if the Dems had taken control of have drifted back. First, in California.

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll shows the race between incumbent California Sen. Barbara Boxer and Republican challenger Carly Fiorina in a dead heat -- with Boxer just one point ahead, 46 to 45 percent of likely voters -- and 18 days to go to election day.

New figures are out for third-quarter fundraising, showing Fiorina raising $5.9 million, with $1.8 million cash on hand, and Boxer raising $6.2 million with $6.5 million cash on hand.

The news is also good in Washington state, where Dino Rossi has pulled back even with the incumbent socialist.

With two weeks to go, the Washington state U.S. Senate race is a virtual dead heat, with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray holding a 1-point lead, 48-47 percent, over Republican challenger Dino Rossi among likely voters, according to a McClatchy-Marist poll released Tuesday.

Are the races really moving, or is it a matter of which polling firm is doing the work? Here's an explanation for why polls are so confused, and confusing.

The question comes down to this: How large is the gap between Republicans and Democrats in Washington state in 2010?  The Elway sample included 39 percent Democrats, 26 percent Republicans — a 13 percent gap for the Democrats. At a time when the national generic ballot shows Republicans with an unprecedented advantage, is there still a double-digit party ID advantage here for the Democrats?

One pollster I talked to said no.  He said pollsters working for Republican and Democratic candidates are finding a Democratic advantage of between 3 and 5 percent. This seems credible given the findings of a Gallup poll done in July which showed Republicans closing the party ID gap all across the county.  That poll showed only a 7 percent Democratic advantage in Washington state among all adults, so the gap is likely smaller among likely voters.

In 2006 and 2008, SurveyUSA’s final polls, which were quite accurate in predicting the outcome of races, found Democratic identification advantages of 7 and 11 percent, respectively. So to believe The Elway Poll one must believe that the 2010 electorate will include a greater Democratic advantage than existed in the 2006 and 2008 elections, both big years for the Democrats.

In Connecticut, despite the sense of inevitability that the media has created for Blumenthal, Linda McMahon is within striking distance.

Wrestling promoter Linda McMahon has narrowed Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's lead in the Rasmussen poll.

A new poll of 750 likely voters that was released Friday shows Blumenthal leading his Republican rival in the U.S. Senate race 51 percent to 46 percent.

Take the polls moving up and down with a grain of salt. Put your money on the energized nature of the GOP voter.