In Arizona, Thiel Foundation President Blake Masters comfortably eased to a double-digit victory over businessman Jim Lamon and Mark Brnovich in the GOP Senate primary, and will face off against incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Kelly in the fall. In the continuation of a theme that has been seen in many battleground states in this cycle, however, this is likely among the worst possible primary outcomes for Republicans from the set of candidates. As we noted in our preview, Masters has taken a number of unpopular stances on birth control, gay marriage, abortion, social security, and the validity of the 2020 election, and none of these stances poll or play well in a state won by Joe Biden, especially against an incumbent as strong as Kelly, who actually outran Biden by two points in 2020.
We have this race rated as a TOSSUP right now, given the time to go until the general election. However, even a Republican internal released after the primary shows that Masters lags behind Kelly 49-44. Given that Kelly is already polling at almost 50% with a jaw-dropping fundraising advantage, and given Masters’ controversial stances and his clear deficit in polling, we would very likely pick Kelly as the winner if the election was held today.
Pre-Election prediction: Likely Masters (ordering: Masters, Lamon, Brnovich).
Result: Exactly correct
Former Governor Eric Greitens was the frontrunner for much of the cycle, and he looked all but set to be the nominee two months ago. However, with Donald Trump staying out of the race until a confusing dual endorsement of both Greitens and Attorney General Eric Schmitt at the last minute, the door was left open for a comeback by a non-Greitens candidate, and Schmitt capitalized. The Missouri AG cruised to a dominant primary victory over congresswoman Vicky Hartzler in second place and Greitens in third, and he now enters the general election as the prohibitive favorite against Democratic nominee Trudy Busch Valentine, who beat Lucas Kunce in the primary by just under 5 points.
We never had this race as anything other than SAFE REPUBLICAN, and our rating holds today — however, if Greitens had been the nominee, senior Republicans had feared that the seat would suddenly become competitive, given the scandals of domestic abuse, assault, and blackmail that still plague the disgraced former Governor. The nomination of Schmitt likely closes any door that Democrats had on winning this seat, and it should be an easy win for Republicans in the fall.
Pre-Election prediction: Lean Schmitt (ordering: Schmitt, Greitens, Hartzler)
Result: Mostly correct (Hartzler came in second over Greitens)
It was never in question that the top two in this jungle primary would be incumbent Democratic Senator Patty Murray and businesswoman Tiffany Smiley. The main question in our minds, however, was how much of the vote Murray and the Democrats would get on the primary ballot, given that the Washington primary tends to be somewhat predictive of November as a whole.
The results confirmed a SAFE DEMOCRATIC rating for November, with Murray currently at 53.2% of the vote with 71% reporting as of midnight on August 5, and the combined partisan vote share at a D +15 advantage (56.2 D-40.8 R). With numbers like these, Smiley will find it extremely hard to mount any type of comeback in the general election, and while Senate Republicans had indicated before the primary that they saw Washington as a potential pickup, the actual results likely shut the door on this possibility.
Pre-Election prediction: Murray, Smiley to advance
Result: Exactly Correct
Trump-aligned candidate Kari Lake, a former news anchor, eked out a narrow victory over businesswoman Karrin Taylor Robson, a Doug Ducey and GOP establishment favorite. Like in the Senate race, Republicans appear to have picked the more controversial nominee, with Lake having made a litany of false or otherwise problematic statements on abortion and the validity of the 2020 election, in addition to ties to extremist groups such as QAnon and neo-Nazis.
Polling has been sparse and with plenty of undecideds, and so the true temperature of the race is hard to gauge at the moment. We hold this race at a TOSSUP, but we think it would have probably been closer to Leans Republican if Taylor Robson had won. At the moment, it is impossible to tell who comes out ahead; however, given that Hobbs is a well-funded Democrat with high name ID, and given the statements made by Lake and their clear unpopularity with voters, one can easily make a case that Hobbs is very slightly favored, though it is truly not enough to move this out of tossup range. Both candidates have an excellent shot at the moment, and the seat is currently as close to a coin flip as one can get.
Prediction: Lean Lake, Safe Hobbs
Result: Exactly correct
The bigger story in Kansas was the defeat of the anti-abortion amendment on the ballot, but the gubernatorial primary contained some fascinating pieces of insight as well. Energized by the referendum, Democrats showed up in droves and actually pulled a higher share (38.2%) of the primary vote on Tuesday than they did in the blue wave of 2018 (32.9%). Needless to say, the results of the primary and the referendum are both very good signs for Democratic incumbent Laura Kelly, who is the single most vulnerable Democrat governor up for re-election in November.
Republicans nominated Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who is almost certainly going to be a stronger candidate than Kris Kobach (who himself won the Attorney General nomination in his bid for a comeback). But in a sign that is more concerning for them, conservative senator Dennis Pyle qualified for the ballot as an independent spoiler candidate who could siphon votes away from the Republican.
Despite Kelly’s popularity, Kansas is still a Trump +15 state, and so this is the type of race Republicans should be easily putting winning with a generic candidate like Schmidt in a red-leaning year, which is what the data currently points to 2022 as being. Based on those fundamentals, we had the race at LEANS REPUBLICAN, and we still hold it here, but we note that it could very well shift to tossup sometime soon because of Kelly’s popularity and a post-Dobbs effect possibly signaling that Kansas may vote more liberally on non-federal races. But to do that, we’d like more data first.
Prediction: Safe Kelly, Safe Schmidt
Result: Exactly Correct
As expected, Trump-endorsed conservative activist Tudor Dixon won the Republican primary to take on popular incumbent governor Gretchen Whitmer. This is a race that will also be likely be accompanied by a ballot initiative in November, which might help boost Democratic turnout if Kansas’ referendum is any indicator and might also help Whitmer overall, who has worked to defend access to abortion in a broadly pro-choice state and has made it a central tenet of her campaign.
Perhaps as concerning for Republicans, though, is Tudor Dixon’s relative weaknesses as a candidate. Dixon has taken an extreme position on abortion, an issue that seems set to dominate the lead-in to the general election, and has previously promoted Donald Trump’s debunked claims regarding the 2020 election. Dixon also has no prior elected or prominent executive experience and lacks name recognition in Michigan as a result, leading to massive early leads in polls. While we don’t think this race ends up with a double digit advantage for Whitmer, we do think there’s enough evidence to suggest that she is clearly favored, especially given the overall picture of the race and her strength as a candidate. For this reason, we hold the race at LEANS DEMOCRATIC.
Prediction: Safe Dixon, Safe Whitmer
Result: Exactly correct
In Kansas, voters showed up in record numbers to vote for or against the anti-abortion amendment on the ballot. Despite Kansas tilting against the pro-choice angle in pre-election surveys and public referendum polling, the referendum was roundly rejected by 18 points in a Trump +15 state, with voters voting to retain the current judicial protection on abortion. “No” (the pro-choice vote) outran Joe Biden’s margins virtually everywhere across the state, regardless of whether a state was urban or rural, with many voters on both sides voting against the proposed amendment. This issue saw millions in outside spending on both sides, and perhaps as a result, Democratic turnout was at levels that exceeded even the 2018 primary numbers.
On the whole, this race confirms what we know from recent polling — that anti-abortion legislation is broadly unpopular and has probably had some effects on the national environment as a whole. Consistent with the picture above, the generic ballot has continued tightening and is now at a virtual tie, and Democrats have seen improved turnout in places like Washington state since the ruling. It will be worth watching the special elections in Minnesota’s 1st CD (August 9th), Alaska’s at-large CD (August 16th), and New York’s 19th and 23rd CDs (August 23rd) to see how the districts shift from 2020. If the electoral bounce recently seen by Democrats sustains itself and manifests in those elections, it may warrant a change in the overall expectations of this cycle.
Prediction: Leans Yes
I’m a software engineer and a computer scientist (UC Berkeley class of 2019 BA, class of 2020 MS) who has an interest in machine learning, politics, and electoral data. I’m a partner at Split Ticket, handle our Senate races, and make many kinds of electoral models.