- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

New polling shows Democrat Michelle Nunn has seized a lead in Georgia’s Senate race, putting a dent in what had been a strong couple of weeks for Republicans who have seen races from North Carolina to Colorado begin to trend in their direction as voters hone in on election day.

Overall, though, with GOP candidates taking or extending leads in nearly every other competitive state, Republicans remain in good shape to net the six seats needed to flip control of the Senate.

“Republicans are well positioned to win the majority in the Senate if they don’t get in their own way,” said Nathan L. Gonzales of the Rothenberg Political Report. “Republican prospects continue to improve in red states against Democratic senators and in purple states, such as Colorado and Iowa, but hot spots in Kansas, South Dakota and Georgia could diminish GOP gains.”

Democrats’ hopes are so dim that while they’re hoping for late-season heroics from Mrs. Nunn, in the other two states on the target list — Kansas and South Dakota — they are counting on independent candidates to win over Republican incumbents.

Neither of those independents — former Sen. Larry Pressler in South Dakota and Greg Orman in Kansas — will even say whether they’d caucus with Democrats should they win.

The statisticians agree things look good for the GOP, with The Washington Post giving Republicans a 94 percent chance of winning enough seats, The New York Times saying there’s a 73 percent chance, and the blog FiveThirtyEight putting it at 60 percent.

SEE ALSO: Fear factor: Ebola, Islamic State hurt Democrats’ chances of keeping Senate

In its latest handicapping of the races, the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics predicts that Republicans will pick up somewhere between five and eight seats.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee this week withdrew its commitments of money to Allison Lundergan Grimes, the party’s nominee for Kentucky’s Senate seat, who has consistently trailed the GOP’s floor leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell, in polls.

At the same time, the DSCC signaled it would shift money into Georgia.

“Georgia is a better state for Democrats than Kentucky. It is a state that is Republican that is trending Democratic,” said Kyle D. Kondik, who works at the Center for Politics. “Democrats look at Georgia as a state that will be more competitive over time.”

A SurveyUSA poll released Wednesday found that Mrs. Nunn holds a 3 percentage point lead over Republican nominee David Perdue, a businessman, in their race to replace retiring GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss. The firm’s previous poll last week had Mr. Perdue up by 1 percentage point.

David Johnson, a Georgia-based Republican strategist, said Mrs. Nunn built support by attacking Mr. Perdue for outsourcing jobs, and Mr. Perdue himself lost support because of a voter backlash against an ad he ran trying to link Mrs. Nunn to the terrorist group Hamas.

But Mr. Johnson said Mrs. Nunn needs to win an outright majority in November’s election. Under Georgia’s rules, if no candidate crosses that threshold, the state holds a two-person do-over, where Mr. Perdue would likely have the upper hand.

Nunn needs to win it without a runoff,” Mr. Johnson said. “She needs 50 plus one in November or she is gone.”

A major part of the Democrats’ problem is their ties to President Obama, whose approval rating sunk to an all-time low in the latest ABC/Washington Post poll released Wednesday. The poll also showed that, since August, Democrats’ favorability rating dropped from 49 percent to 39 percent — driven by a 17 point plunge among blacks and 13 point drop-off among women.

The latest Senate races to tilt toward the GOP are Colorado, where Rep. Cory Gardner has led in the three most recent polls over incumbent Sen. Mark Udall, and North Carolina, where incumbent Sen. Kay R. Hagan’s lead over state House Speaker Thom Tillis has nearly evaporated in the RealClearPolitics.com average of polls.

“The polls are showing a momentum shift toward Tillis and show that Hagan is spinning her wheels and having trouble I think motivating her [own] base,” said John Davis, a veteran observer of North Carolina politics. “There is really not that enthusiasm you need to see in North Carolina as a Democrat to win a close race.”

The NRSC’s decision this week to pour an extra $6 million into the race is the latest proof that the GOP believes things have swung in Mr. Tillis’ direction.

RealClearPolitics’ poll averages show leads for the GOP in Iowa, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alaska — all states held by Democratic senators right now. Most analysts say Montana and West Virginia, which are also held by Democrats, are already safely in the GOP column.

Democrats are still favored to hold seats in close races in New Hampshire and Michigan.

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