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A Senate Poll Wave

Another sign a ticket-splitting trend is underway

New numbers show Democratic Senate candidates are outpacing their Republican challengers in six key states, even as — in most — former President Donald Trump edges out Joe Biden in the race for the White House.

From June 13-18, Emerson College, in conjunction with The Hill, conducted a series of polls in six crucial battlegrounds — Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The surveys show Democrats leading in these states' Senatorial contests; however, these same polls indicate that Trump is besting Biden in five of the six domains — an indication that a massive ticket-splitting pattern is developing.


Five of the six Senate contests are competitive, with the Democratic candidate leading close to the polling margin of error. This advantage is not especially surprising, as in three of these five races, the Democratic candidates are incumbents.

These, and the three highly-competitive contests not included in the Emerson series — Maryland, Montana and Ohio — will determine which party wins the Senate in 2024.

The Outlier: Minnesota

Regarded by some analysts as a distant, second-tier battleground, the North Star State is the lone outlier — the one domain Emerson surveyed where the Senate race is not particularly competitive. 

The college tested incumbent Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) against two potential Republican nominees: banker and retired Navy officer Joe Fraser, and retired NBA basketball player Royce West. 

For both prospective match-ups, the results were essentially the same. Against Fraser, Klobuchar would lead 47-37%; against West, the Senator would score slightly better, with a 48-37% advantage.


The Grand Canyon State is home to one of the two open seats in Emerson's tested group, as Independent incumbent Kyrsten Sinema is not seeking re-election.

US Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Phoenix) is now considered the favorite to win Sinema's seat in November; Emerson shows Gallego leading 2022 gubernatorial nominee and retired Phoenix news anchor Kari Lake (R) by 45-41%. 

This result is similar to that of a recent Rasmussen Reports poll, which detected a 44-41% split, also in Rep. Gallego's favor.


The Wolverine State is home to the other open Senate seat in Emerson's study, as Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) is retiring.

Here, we again see a close result, with Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing), the presumed Democratic nominee, holding a four-point lead over former US Rep. Mike Rogers (R), 43-39%. 

These numbers are consistent with other recent polls of the Michigan electorate.


The Silver State race features the biggest spread among the tested Senate contests. 

Emerson finds incumbent Sen. Jacky Rosen (D) topping the newly-nominated Republican candidate, Afghan War veteran Sam Brown, with a 50-38% advantage.


Moving east to the Keystone State, the college finds incumbent Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. (D) holding a definitive lead over Republican challenger David McCormick, with a spread of 47-41%. 

Emerson's results mirror those of virtually every other recent Pennsylvania poll; an early June Marist College survey, for example, projected the same margin, with Sen. Casey posting a 52-46% lead when undecided voters were pressed for an answer as to their preference.


Finally, in the Badger State, Emerson finds a surprisingly close contest between two-term incumbent Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) and businessman Eric Hovde (R), with just a two-point difference, 46-44%, in Sen. Baldwin's favor. 

In five other polls, released in April and May, Baldwin held consistent leads of between five and 12 percentage points.


The Emerson surveys reflect a pattern we began to see last week.

In testing the Senate races in these five most competitive states, the college also asked respondents to name their pick for President. In all five domains — within the same polling samples that showed Democratic candidates leading in their respective Senate contests — former President Trump outpaced President Biden.

These results confirm that an unusually large ticket-splitting trend is underway:

  • In Arizona, the Emerson poll shows Trump leading Biden by a four-point margin. 

  • The former President's spread in Michigan is one point.

  • Trump is ahead by three points in Nevada.

  • The MAGA chief's Pennsylvania margin is two points.

  • In Wisconsin, Trump tops Biden by three percentage points.

Therefore, the net swing factor between Trump and the Republican Senate candidate is striking:

  • In Arizona, eight points — Trump up four; Lake down four

  • In Michigan, five points — Trump up one; Rogers down four

  • In Nevada, 15 points — Trump up three; Brown down 12

  • In Pennsylvania, eight points — Trump up two; McCormick down six

  • In Wisconsin, five points — Trump up three; Hovde down two

With the West Virginia Senate seat a lock for the Republicans to convert, the effective partisan division, projecting forward, is 50-50. 

Therefore, adding the three key races not included in the Emerson surveys — Maryland, Montana and Ohio — the Republicans need to win at least one of all the aforementioned seats to capture an outright Senate majority. 

To protect themselves against adverse Senate maps in 2026 and 2028, the GOP will have to turn around several of these 2024 Senate races if they are to develop a sustaining majority beyond the next Congress. 

With Decision Day now just four-and-a-half months away, we can expect Republicans to target each of these Senate contests with much greater intensity as the election cycle progresses.

Jim Ellis is a 35-year veteran of politics at the state and national levels. He has served ss executive director for two national political action committees, as well as a consultant to the three national Republican Party organizations in DC, the National Federation of Independent Business, and various national conservative groups.

Born and raised in Sacramento, California, he earned a B. A. in Political Science from the University of California at Davis in 1979. Jim raised his daughter, Jacqueline, alone after his wife died following a tragic car accident. He helped establish the Joan Ellis Victims Assistance Network in Rochester, NH. Jim also is a member of the Northern Virginia Football Officials Association, which officiates high school games throughout the region.

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