Battle For The Senate Close And Competitive In Latest Polling

The battle to control the Senate remains deeply competitive, according to new data from CBS/New York Times/YouGov polling conducted nationwide and NBC/Marist surveys in three key swing states.

"The fight for control of the Senate is stable and tight, with Republicans maintaining the inside track to a majority. ... Nonetheless, the data suggests that the Democrats retain a clear, if difficult, path to victory," The New York Times' Nate Cohn wrote, summarizing the CBS/NYT/YouGov results.

While the two sets of surveys differ on some individual states, their results are largely in line with other recent polling. Other forecasters have similarly found little change in their predictions as a result of the latest polls.

The GOP's chance of retaking the Senate ticked down on HuffPost Pollster's Senate forecast, which incorporates all publicly available polling. One reason for the change: the newest surveys push Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) up to a 61 percent chance of winning, edging North Carolina out of the tossup camp. Hagan's advantage, though sometimes small, has been consistent over the past month. The 13 most recent polls in the state, including those by partisan pollsters, have all shown her ahead by at least 1 percentage point.

Another reason for the slight shift in GOP fortunes: Michigan has also turned more solidly Democratic, with the forecast now giving Rep. Gary Peters an 88 percent chance of victory.

The HuffPost Pollster forecast still finds five swing states where the leading Senate candidate has less than a 60 percent chance of winning: Kansas, where the independent has an edge; Alaska and Arkansas, where Republicans hold a slight advantage; and Iowa and Colorado, where the races are virtually tied.

In Colorado, the Pollster model gives Sen. Mark Udall (D) a 50 percent chance of holding his seat against Rep. Cory Gardner (R). Sunday's CBS/NYT/YouGov poll is the first since early September to show Udall ahead. Recent Rasmussen and Suffolk/USA Today surveys also found a deadlocked race.

While Alaska remains relatively sparsely polled, the last four surveys of the state -- including by CBS/NYT/YouGov -- all show Sen. Mark Begich (D) in trouble, with Republican challenger Dan Sullivan leading by 2 to 6 points.

The latest surveys in Iowa have been more varied, with several showing a clear edge for state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) and others finding her deadlocked against Rep. Bruce Braley (D). The NBC/Marist and CBS/NYT/YouGov polls lean toward the latter camp, finding a 2-point edge for Ernst and a 1-point edge for Braley, respectively. The Pollster model finds the two effectively tied.

Polls have also varied on the Senate race in Arkansas, with CBS/NYT/YouGov, Rasmussen and the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling giving Rep. Tom Cotton (R) an edge of several points, while Suffolk/USA Today shows Sen. Mark Pryor (D) up by 2 points. The Pollster model finds the race nearly tied, with Cotton ahead by less than 2 points.

Most surveys conducted in Kansas give independent Greg Orman the edge over Sen. Pat Roberts (R). NBC/Marist finds Orman up by 10 points, his biggest lead to date, while CBS/NYT/YouGov has the race tied (see here for more on the race).

The NBC/Marist poll surveyed 636 likely voters in Kansas, 665 likely voters in North Carolina and 778 likely voters in Iowa between Sept. 27 and Oct. 1, using live interviewers to reach both landlines and cell phones. The national CBS/NYT/YouGov poll surveyed likely voters between Sept. 20 and Oct. 1, using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel.

Iowa Senate
Tom Williams via Getty Images
Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) appears to be picking up momentum in her bid to turn retiring Sen. Tom Harkin's (D) seat from blue to red. The Democratic nominee, Rep. Bruce Braley, has continued to suffer from the backlash over his comments about Sen. Chuck Grassley's (R-Iowa) background as a farmer. Democrats, however, think they can paint Ernst as extreme by highlighting her comments about the minimum wage, nullification of federal laws, Medicaid recipients, personhood legislation and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Alaska Senate
U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D) has worked to show he is independent from President Barack Obama's administration as he battles former state Attorney General Dan Sullivan, a Republican. The senator has opposed Obama's strategies to combat Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria and to expand background checks on gun sales. He has also disassociated himself from his party by remaining open to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Republicans, on the other hand, have worked to tie Begich to the president, who is deeply unpopular in the state.
Colorado Senate
Mark Udall (Kent Nishimura via Getty Images)
Sen. Mark Udall (D) and Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) are locked in one of the closest races on this year's Senate map. Democrats have put Gardner on the defensive over his past support for personhood legislation, which would give legal rights to fetuses from the moment of fertilization. Republicans have continuously hit Udall over the Affordable Care Act, his energy policies and national security issues.
Arkansas Senate
Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) is now the slight favorite in his race against Sen. Mark Pryor, the only Democratic member of his state's congressional delegation. The dialogue between the two candidates has moved from the farm bill and food stamps to the minimum wage and funding for pediatric research to the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision.
Kansas Senate
The surprise race of this cycle is in Kansas, where Sen. Pat Roberts (R) may be edged out by independent Greg Orman, who insists he's disenchanted with both parties. Republicans are scrambling to paint Orman as a Democrat in disguise, but Roberts is still experiencing the fallout from a New York Times report that revealed that he doesn't maintain a permanent home in the state.
New Hampshire Senate
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) is fighting for re-election against former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.). Democrats have done everything they can to ridicule Brown's candidacy, but President Barack Obama's unpopularity in the Granite State, as in other states, may hurt Shaheen on Nov. 4.
Louisiana Senate
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) is a political survivor, having won her last three Senate races by narrow margins. She'll need another miracle if the nonpartisan primary on Nov. 4. goes to a Dec. 6. runoff, as all of the GOP's energy will presumably be focused on putting Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) over the top, especially if control of Congress' upper chamber hinges on this race. Landrieu would need to significantly boost turnout in cities such as New Orleans to eke out a runoff win. Her brother is the mayor of New Orleans, though, so that could help.
North Carolina Senate
Sen. Kay Hagan (D) has so far held on against a challenge from North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis (R). Republicans have gone from being gleeful with expectations that they would take the seat to glum, as Democrats have worked to tar Tillis with the actions of the state legislature over which he presided. Republicans have called Hagan ineffectual, while Democrats have consistently highlighted Tillis' record on education spending, voting rights and abortion rights.
Kentucky Senate
Win McNamee via Getty Images
One of the Democratic Party's pickup opportunities is in Kentucky, but that possibility seems to be receding as Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) has been dropping off in the polls against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R). While McConnell's campaign has run ads touting his work on behalf of constituents and accused Grimes of being too close to Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Grimes has distanced herself from others in her party. Though McConnell remains unpopular in the state, Grimes would need heavy turnout to surpass him.
Georgia Senate
The second of the Democrats' two pickup opportunities in red states is in Georgia, where nonprofit executive Michelle Nunn and businessman David Perdue (R) both hope to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R). Both candidates have well-known surnames: Nunn's father is popular former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), while Perdue's cousin is former Gov. Sonny Perdue (R). Democrats think they can turn the state purple with the help of groups like the New Georgia Project, led by Georgia state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D), which has collected tens of thousands of voter registration applications.