The elections that will likely determine control of the Senate appear tight in the final days before the November midterm elections, according to a New York Times and Siena College poll of four key races released Monday.
The survey shows Democrats hold slim leads over their Republican opponents in Senate races in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia, while the two competitors in Nevada are locked in a dead heat. Former President Donald Trump has endorsed the Republican nominees in all four races.
Democrats hope to retain at least their razor-thin Senate majority. The chamber is currently split 50-50 between the parties, with Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote.
Republicans only need to gain a single seat to take control. Flipping any of the Democratic-held seats in Arizona, Georgia or Nevada — or defending the GOP-held Pennsylvania one — would boost Republicans in their bid to win the Senate majority.
A Republican-controlled Senate could sink President Joe Biden’s hopes for passing major legislation in the final two years of his first term. Republicans are favored to win control of the House.
The most promising result for Democrats in the new poll came in Arizona, where respondents gave incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly a 6-percentage-point lead, 51% to 45%, over Republican Blake Masters. That result, taken from 604 likely voters between Oct. 24 and Oct. 26, fell outside the poll’s margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.
In Pennsylvania, Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman held a lead of similar size over Dr. Mehmet Oz, 49% to 44%. But the survey of 620 likely Pennsylvania voters was conducted from Oct. 24 to Oct. 26 — largely before the two candidates met for a debate in which Fetterman, who is recovering from a life-threatening stroke, struggled to articulate his thoughts.
The overall poll result showed that a plurality of voters, 48% to 35%, think Fetterman is healthy enough to perform the duties of a U.S. senator. But among those surveyed after the debate, a plurality said they thought he was not healthy enough for the job. The Pennsylvania survey has a 4.4-percentage-point margin of error.
Georgia, the battleground key to Biden‘s 2020 win over Trump and Democrats’ takeover of the Senate, now hosts a competitive race between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker.
The latest poll shows Warnock leading Walker by just 3 percentage points, 49% to 46%, a gap smaller than the survey’s 4.8-percentage-point margin of error.
In Nevada, meanwhile, incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is trying to fend off a challenge from Republican political scion and former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt. The Times/Siena poll shows the two candidates tied at 47% in the race, which is considered one of the GOP’s best chances to flip a blue seat.
The pollsters surveyed 885 likely voters in Nevada between Oct. 19 and Oct. 24; the results carry a 4.2-percentage-point margin of error.
Midterm elections, which are viewed as a referendum on the current political leadership, tend to disfavor the party in control of the White House. The president’s party has lost seats in Congress in every cycle since 2002.
Surveys consistently show inflation and crime ranking near the top of voters’ lists of concerns. Republican candidates across the board have accused their Democratic rivals of being soft on crime. They also have pinned high inflation, a global phenomenon in the last two years, on Biden’s and the Democrats’ policies.
The president’s low approval ratings, while somewhat improved from months past, are seen as a potential drag on Democrat candidates fighting for survival in the competitive swing-state races. The president’s unpopularity is more pronounced in the four states surveyed in the latest Times/Siena poll, as his ratings are either at or below his national average, the newspaper reported.
Still, Biden, a Pennsylvania native who beat Trump there in 2020, campaigned in the Keystone State for Fetterman in recent days. Harris, first lady Jill Biden and former President Barack Obama have also hit the trail in the final sprint to the Nov. 8 elections to support Democrats.