Iowa Republicans are shouting from the social media rooftops about the Washington Post’s new “Election Lab” forecast, which predicts Republicans have a 65 percent chance of winning Iowa’s open U.S. Senate seat. You can read about the Election Lab methodology here; it includes metrics such as U.S. Senate election results from 1980 to 2012 and President Barack Obama’s share of the vote in a given state in 2012. The Election Lab gurus are not factoring opinion polls into their model yet but plan to do so later. Candidate quality does not seem to be reflected in their model, although weak Republican nominees clearly blew several winnable Senate elections in 2010 and 2012. I’m sure the presumptive Democratic Senate nominee Bruce Braley would rather run against some of the Republicans candidates than others.
Over at the New York Times blog The Upshot, Nate Cohn, Josh Katz, and Amanda Cox compared Senate forecasts from six prominent websites or political analysts. Iowa was one of the few states where the Election Lab forecast was markedly different from the rest of the group. For now, the New York Times model gives Democrats an 83 percent chance of holding Iowa’s Senate seat. Nate Silver’s website 538.com has put those odds at 75 percent. The Cook Political Report, Rothenberg Political Report, and Larry Sabato’s website all list IA-Sen as a “lean Democratic” race.
Granted, several of those projections came before Republicans made hay from Braley’s comments about Senator Chuck Grassley, but a couple of public polls since then have suggested the Iowa Senate race will be very tight. I wouldn’t give either party a clear advantage right now, certainly not a 65 percent advantage. (For what it’s worth, Silver hedged his bets on whether Braley’s gaffe will be a “game-changer.”)
Incidentally, the Election Lab’s forecast for Iowa’s U.S. House races was even more strange. The Washington Post’s analysts give Republicans a 60 percent chance of winning the open first district. I will eat my hat if likely nominee Rod Blum pulls that off. The Iowa Democratic Party and Braley’s campaign will be pushing GOTV extremely hard in the key IA-01 counties. I believe any of the five Democrats running for that seat could beat Blum. Election Lab sees Republicans with an 80 percent chance of winning the open third district. To my mind, some of the GOP candidates in IA-03 would be much tougher opponents for Staci Appel than others. Election Lab gives four-term Democratic incumbent Dave Loebsack a 90 percent chance of winning IA-02 and six-term Republican incumbent Steve King a 99.8 percent chance of winning IA-04.