Just a couple months ago, if you had told a politico that the Democrats would likely keep control of the U.S. Senate, they would have laughed you out of the building. Even Battleground270 predicted a 50/50 split in early July. At the time, I had written that it was certainly plausible that Democrats could keep or (even less likely) increase their majority, but I also said it was just as likely that the GOP could capture the majority, perhaps by a large margin.
The election is not over, and like before, there are still some races hanging on a knife’s edge, but it now appears Democrats are very likely to keep their majority in the Senate. Let’s examine each of the races.
Of the seventeen races I had labeled as “safe” for each respective party, sixteen of those have remained as such. The exception is in the race in Pennsylvania (which we will examine in a minute). The only seat that has been moved into the “safe” column is retiring Hawaii Senator Daniel Akaka’s seat. I’ve classified the rest as either “leans Dem”, “leans GOP”, or “tossup”.
The reason Democrats are more likely now to keep their Senate majority is because many races that were previously considered tossups are now leaning towards the Democrats.
Maine: Though I technically shouldn’t consider this (yet) as a Democratic pickup, Angus King, the independent, is largely thought to caucus with Democrats in the Senate. He has endorsed President Obama, and he hails from a state that is likely to overwhelmingly vote for Barack Obama.
Final Result: King – 51.2
Summers – 35.8
Dill - 12.7
Florida: Bill Nelson has remained as a favorite in his race against Republican Connie Mack. This is partially due to Mack’s inept campaign, but it can also be said that Nelson has ran a near flawless campaign.
Final Result: Nelson – 52.8
Mack – 47.1
Connecticut: This race is one of the few examples in which the GOP actually gained ground. Before the primaries, Democratic candidate Chris Murphy was leading Linda McMahon by nearly double digits. Since then, however, McMahon caught up in September, only to begin to fall back again in the final weeks of the campaign. President Obama will likely greatly boost Murphy and help carry him over the finish line.
Final Result: Murphy – 52.8
McMahon – 46.8
Massachusetts: This race was one in which the polls had been tied all spring and summer, and it appeared to be a genuine tossup. Not anymore. Ever since the Democratic National Convention, at which Elizabeth Warren had a prime-time speaking slot, the Democratic candidate has inched her way up to a solid lead against incumbent Senator Scott Brown. She will likely be further helped on Election Day due to the fact that President Obama has a staggering 30+ pt. lead against Gov. Mitt Romney in the Bay State.
Final Result: Warren – 52.6
Brown – 47.2
Pennsylvania: Everyone seemed to think Senator Bob Casey didn’t need to worry about his GOP challenger this year. It seems as though even Bob Casey thought so. Now, he is in a closer-than-expected race with Smith, but still favored to win, given Pennsylvania’s Democratic tilt and the fact that Barack Obama is expected to carry the state.
Final Result: Casey – 51.8
Smith – 46.9
Ohio: Like Pennsylvania, the polling has been somewhat unstable but has consistently shown a lead for Senator Sherrod Brown, even after upwards of $40M spent by outside GOP groups against the Senator.
Final Result: Brown – 52.4
Mandel – 47.1
Missouri: When one thinks of he Missouri Senate race, they think of Todd Akin and his rape comments, and that is precisely why Senator Claire McCaskill is favored to hold on to her seat, despite an increasingly Republican tilt in the state. GOP groups have been flooding the state in recent days, but it will likely be too-little, too-late.
Final Result: McCaskill – 49.8
Akin – 45.6
Dine – 4.5
There are only three states that are currently in the “leans GOP” column, and only one of those has become more favorable for the Republican candidate since July.
Nebraska: In recent days, Democratic candidate (and former Senator) Bob Kerrey has been getting (relatively) good news. He has received the endorsement of former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel and was down by only 3 points in a recent poll. However, the poll is probably be an outlier, and the state has such a Republican-lean that it is hard to picture Kerrey pulling off the win.
Final Result: Fischer – 53.7
Kerrey – 45.7
North Dakota: This race could be considered the inverse of Massachusetts; while they were both essentially tied throughout the summer, the candidate aligned most with the state’s partisan tilt is now pulling away. If it were a non-presidential year, Heidi Heitkamp could actually pull it off. However, with Romney at the top of the ticket, Berg is looking like the favorite.
Final Result: Berg – 52.1
Heitkamp – 47.8
Arizona: There hasn’t been any public polling in the Grand Canyon State for nearly two weeks now, but the consensus is the race was trending from tossup to leaning Republican. The Democrat, Richard Carmona, may still be able to pull off an upset, but his independent appeal likely won’t be enough to grant him victory in the Republican state.
Final Result: Flake – 50.5
Carmona – 47.8
The remaining five states are those in which either the polling is inside the margin of error, or there is some outside factor that I believe puts the race in tossup instead of leaning in a certain direction (..cough..cough..Indiana and Nevada…).
Indiana: Richard Mourdock was on his way to victory until his debate with Joe Donnelly. At the debate, he seemed to say that God intends for rapes to occur. Before the comments, he had a small, but consistent lead over Donnelly. However, since the debate, Mourdock has been trailing or tied with Donnelly, even by as much as eleven points. The reason I hesitate to put this in the “leans Dem” column is because Indiana has a heavily GOP lean, and the Republican Party has not disarmed as they did in Missouri. I personally believe Donnelly is the favorite, but not by the margins polls are projecting.
Final Result: Donnelly – 48.5
Mourdock – 47.2
Horning – 4.3
Nevada: The Silver State is another example of myself being hesitant to put it in a “leaning” column. While nearly all polls have shown Dean Heller with a small lead (~3 points), Nevada is an increasingly Democratic state, and one that has been visited frequently by Barack Obama this year. He is expected to win the state, and his organizational advantage could be a boost to Berkley. Finally, there is evidence to suggest that, like 2010, the Hispanic population, a heavily Democratic constituency, is not being accurately represented in the polls. However, despite all this, I tend to still believe Heller has a very small lead in Nevada.
Final Result: Heller – 48.8
Berkley – 47.2
Montana: There likely has not been a race in which the candidates have been more consistently close in polling. Jon Tester is arguably a perfect fit for the state, but in a year when Montana is expected to overwhelmingly vote for Mitt Romney, the Democrat may not survive. Currently, polls are showing a literal tie.
Final Result: Tester – 50.1
Rehberg – 49.7
Virginia: Since the beginning of the year, Republican candidate (and former Senator) George Allen has sought to tie Tim Kaine to Barack Obama, and judging by the polling all year long, it has worked. As Obama and Romney were roughly tied in VA in the summer, so was Allen and Kaine. As Obama opened up a lead throughout September, so did Kaine. Now, the President is back to being roughly tied in Virginia with Mitt Romney, as is Kaine with Allen. However, it seems as though Kaine is doing slightly better now against Allen than Obama is against Romney, and for that reason, Kaine is favored to win.
Final Result: Kaine – 51.0
Allen – 48.6
Wisconsin: There is probably not another race with two candidates who are further apart from one another ideologically. Though she has done a great job positioning herself in the center for the general election, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin is one of the most liberal members of Congress, and not exactly a perfect fit for the state. However, former Governor Tommy Thompson had to join himself at the hip of the Tea Party in order to win his primary, and with limited funds, he is now struggling to win with the broader electorate. This race, like Montana is about as close to “tossup” as you can get.
Final Result: Baldwin – 50.2
Thompson – 49.1
In all, Battleground270 is projecting Democrats will end up with 54 seats while Republicans will lose a seat (46). That Democrats would be considered favorites to actually gain seats in 2012 would have seemed preposterous even a couple months ago.