The Wire strongly recommends that you not tie your emotional state to the fluctuations of Senate polling, but should you fail to follow that advice: Prepare to be irrationally elated, Democrats. The embattled Southern incumbents are doing better than expected in a new survey from The New York Times.
A quick recap. In order to retake control of the Senate, the Republican Party needs to win six Senate seats (and hold all of their current ones). They're almost certain to win the open seats in West Virginia and South Dakota. They'll probably win in Montana, too. Which leaves them three short. And the lowest-hanging fruit to grab those three seats are the races in Arkansas, Louisiana, and South Carolina.
According to the new Times poll, the Democratic incumbents lead in all three of those races.
In Arkansas, Sen. Mark Pryor leads Rep. Tom Cotton 46 to 36. In Louisiana, Sen. Mary Landrieu leads several Republican opponents by a wide margin, though she would face a run-off if she didn't receive 50 percent. In North Carolina, Sen. Kay Hagan leads two opponents by a narrow margin (shown is her margin over Thom Tillis, 42 to 40).
OK. This is the point at which enthusiastic Democrats have stopped reading and have sent the article to their friends and family. Which I appreciate your doing, thank you. But some caution is in order.
You may recall that, last month, polling guru Nate Silver predicted that Republicans had a 51 percent chance of regaining the Senate, a prediction that prompted a bit of a freak-out on the left. On Tuesday, analysts at Silver's old employer, the Times, gave the Democrats the same chance of holding the Senate.
But here's what's important to note! This is not a dispute. Instead, it is the nature of polling. In March, the Times would have said the same thing as Silver.
Don't believe me? Here's the Times' graph of its polling model over time. The Silver analysis came out on March 23, which is indicated on the graph below with an orange line (that I added). The colored line that is slightly above 50 percent is red, not blue.
The point being: the new polls are good news for Democrats hoping to hold the Senate. They are not the final word. Those red and blue lines will likely flow over and under the 50 percent mark like sine waves until Election Day. If they do, that's the point at which you should start getting excited or panicked.