The Cook Political Report changed its ratings in three Senate races, including Texas. The map still tends to favor the GOP keeping its majority, but it’s looking like incumbent Democrats Joe Tester from Montana and Joe Manchin from West Virginia will keep their seats.

However, incumbent Republican Ted Cruz from Texas is in slight trouble as his race now has the label Toss-Up.

Ted Cruz

Texas is a red state, which makes the change to Toss-Up a confusing one. Poll after poll changes. One minute Cruz has the lead and the next his Democrat opponent Robert O’Rourke grabs it. From The Cook Political Report:

GOP U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz isn’t terribly popular, and while that might not necessarily be a problem is a red state, Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke and his message have generated a great deal of enthusiasm among Democrats and independents, as well as Democratic donors across the country who have filled his campaign war chest. At this point, he has outraised Cruz and outspent him on television. A Toss Up rating makes both parties nervous: Republicans for obvious reasons and Democrats because it creates an expectation that they will start spending money on the race. For that matter, Republicans aren’t anxious to spend money in such an expensive state either. The Club for Growth is investing in the race on Cruz’s behalf, but O’Rourke has campaigned against PAC money and outside spending so having the party swoop in with millions in television advertising might well be counterproductive. O’Rourke has earned this rating, but getting the last couple of points to overtake Cruz and win the seat will be difficult though not utterly impossible.

A Quinnipiac University poll from September 18 had Cruz over O’Rourke 54 to 45. 1% of those who responded remain undecided.

Then a day later, a poll from Ispos, Reuters, and the University of Virginia had O’Rourke ahead, 47 to 45. Only 3% said other and 5% said none. From Texas Tribune:

Ipsos is trying to gauge political enthusiasm on each side, said Jackson. The poll asked respondents to estimate the likelihood that they’d vote in the midterm elections on a scale from one to 10. “More Democrats are registering at the highest part of the scale, at the 10, than the Republicans,” Jackson said. And that’s what’s interesting, he said, because Republicans usually have the momentum advantage in Texas.

“It demonstrates how Democrats are mobilized,” said Jackson. “This election is going to be really competitive and its going be very hard fought.”

Healthcare and immigration were the issues that Texas voters valued most, according to the poll, but it’s “very lopsided,” Jackson said. Republican respondents cared most about immigration and Democrats cared most about healthcare with very little overlap.

Jon Tester

I said back in July that Montana intrigues me because of the electoral swings in the state. President Donald Trump won the state by 20 points in November 2016, but the state also elected a Democrat governor that month. From The Cook Political Report:

Tester is running a very strong campaign that highlights his accomplishments in the Senate on behalf of Montana voters. He stresses the pieces of legislation he has sponsored that President Trump has signed into law, as well as his Montana-centric independence. Republican state Auditor Matt Rosendale appears to be holding his own, despite a constant barrage of attacks from Democrats who have defined him as a heartless real estate developer from Maryland who owns a “trophy ranch.” While Trump is a big asset to Rosendale, the presence of a Libertarian candidate on the ballot may well prevent him from overtaking Tester; Libertarian candidates often cost Republicans elections here.

Recent polls show the men in a dead heat. A CBS News poll from last week has Tester up 47 to 45. RealClearPolitics has Tester with a 4.3% lead, but you have to remember that he had an 8 point lead in June.

Joe Manchin

Manchin entered the race as the most vulnerable incumbent. The Cook Political Report had his race as a Toss Up the whole time, but that has changed to Lean Democrat:

Having served two terms as Governor, voters know Manchin and Republicans have had trouble selling the message that Washington has changed him. It has helped that GOP state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey isn’t the strongest candidate that the party could have nominated. Democrats have successfully tagged him as a former lobbyist from New Jersey who is beholden to the pharmaceutical industry. Some Republican strategists maintain that there is still a path to victory for Morrisey, but it is narrow. For now, Manchin’s lead appears to be in the high single digits. If the race closes, it will move back to Toss Up.

The latest polls have Manchin in a semi-comfortable lead. Research America found Manchin up by 8 points over Morrisey earlier this month. A MetroNews Dominion West Virginia Poll at the end of August came to the same conclusion:

The poll that was released Friday showed Manchin, the Democrat who has served in the Senate since 2010, with a 46 percent to 38 percent edge on the Republican Morrisey.

Another 16 percent of likely voters said they still aren’t sure.

“Morrisey is behind by about 8 percentage points, but if you look at the voters most interested in the election, that lead shrinks,” said pollster Rex Repass, who constructed the questions for the West Virginia Poll. “Morrisey could have more of an advantage in the intensity factor or the enthusiasm factor.”