Along with the Presidential Election there are several key down ballot races that are worth watching on Election Night. I predict that Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) will remain the majority leader, not because I am a partisan Democrat, but because of one important factor:
The path to retaining the Senate began this summer when Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) made this statement on a Sunday morning television program that aired in St. Louis:
Todd Akin won a highly competitive Republican primary for the Senate nomination in Missouri. It was looking like Senator Clair McCaskill’s career in the Senate was going to end, but after Rep. Akin made the “legitimate rape” statement; you could see the polls tilt towards her favor. McCaskill was at first criticized by many mainstream Democrats for not showing up to the Democratic National Convention, but she was facing a difficult re-election bid. I think Akin’s comments made Democrats realize that she made the right decision to stay home.
In one debate between the two candidates, Akin accused McCaskill of not being lady like… again, this coming from a guy who made the barbaric statement of “legitimate rape.”
Speaking of misogynistic statements, check out what Richard Murdock in Indiana’s US Senate race said… DURING A DEBATE!!!
And like in Missouri, you can see the race flip over from Republican to lean Democratic. In this open seat due to the defeat of Senator Richard Lugar in the Republican Primary, Rep. Joe Donnelly (D, IN-2) is now favored to win due to this gaffe.
Arizona is showing they are becoming competitive in national politics. Due to the retirement of Senator Jon “not intended to be factual statement” Kyl (R), a highly competitive Senate race blossomed in the desert. Rep. Jeff Flake (R) and former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona (D) are locked in a neck-and-neck race. This also shows signs of impacting the Presidential election. Even though Nate Silver shows Romney with a better than a 95% chance of winning the state, Talking Points Memo poll tracker shows it a Lean Romney… a very strong Lean Romney with him leading by 4.8 points. The Obama campaign was hoping to be competitive in this state given its demographics and unlike in 2008, no favorite son factor. I will highlight this in my Presidential Prediction Posting, but Arizona could the Indiana of 2012 (both states have 11 electoral votes, did anyone expect Indiana to be a blue state in 2008?). The difference is that Arizona could remain a dark shade of purple for a lot longer because, again the demographics.
Probably the least talked about competitive race is in Nevada between the incumbent Senator Dean Heller (R) and Rep. Shelley Berkley. Heller was appointed to replace the disgraced John Ensign who resigned amid a high profile ethics scandal where he had an extramarital affair with the wife of one of his staffers, maid payments to the family of the woman, and awarded the woman’s husband a job to keep the relationship on the down low. Two years ago, Senator Harry Reid was involved in a highly contested Senate race between him and Sharron “Second Amendment solutions” Angle. The pollsters were predicting a loss, but there was next to no ground game in Nevada for Angle. Reid on the other hand, had one. Expect the Reid machine to be in full force for this race.
Barack Obama has no chance in winning the next two states: North Dakota and Montana. However, there are Senate races of interest in these states. Let’s start with North Dakota first. Another retirement, this time Senator Kent Conrad, is a factor in this race. Another factor is the population of North Dakota. The state has less than 700,000 inhabitants. You could fit the entire population of Denton County in North Dakota. Why talk about population? That is probably why the race is so close. At the Presidential level, it is a reliably red state. However, they elect Democrats at the state level and again Kent Conrad was elected to the US Senate in 1986 as a Democrat.
I think the smaller population plays a role in shattering people’s misconceptions about Democrats in that state that they don’t mind being represented by one in the Congress by one. I for one would like to see the polling for this race as in what percentage of people consider themselves Romney supporters and/or Republicans but will end up voting for Democrat Heidi Heitkamp for the US Senate.
The race is close because she supports energy efforts in the state. According to her campaign website, she is an advocate for using solar and wind energy and also oil and gas. Heitkamp stated her support for the Keystone XL Pipeline and fracking, the process of breaking up rocks in the ground in order to claim the natural gas contained in them. This is a controversial practice due to environmental concerns and possible seismic activity related to it. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, North Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate in the country. For September 2012, North Dakota’s unemployment rate is at 3.0%. In part it is due to the energy industry boom that has taken place.
Montana a different kind of boom is taking place, but it is not the energy sector. Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) released a Kraken of unlimited campaign contributions from corporate entities into American politics. The place where this battle is taking place is in Montana. A century year old law on the books called the Corrupt Practices Act prevents outside money from influencing elections. The Montana State Attorney General attempted to bring this up to the Supreme Court that their ruling contradicted with this state law, but the Supreme Court refused to hear it on the basis that they could make Citizens United WORSE.
Frontline aired a program detailing the deluge and flood of money into our election titled “Big Sky, Big Money.” One of the advocates for Citizens United is conservative activist James Bopp who actually defended that secrecy regarding contributions is GOOD for our election process.
Anyways, it is a tough race to call. This is a state that Barack Obama has no chance of winning. The polling shows incumbent Senator Jon Tester (D) leading challenger Denny Rehberg (R) by 2 points in the most recent poll conducted by Public Policy Polling. Tester was elected in 2006 by a 49.2%-48.3% margin. It appears to be heading in that direction.
In Montana and North Dakota, I see the Democrats winning ONE of these seats as a best case scenario.
In Florida, Senator Bill Nelson (D) appeared to face a tough challenge in Rep. Connie Mack IV (R), but it looks like Nelson will be re-elected.
If the name Connie Mack sounds familiar, it should. The Florida Congressman is the great-grandson of Philadelphia (later Kansas City, now Oakland) Athletics manager and baseball Hall of Famer Connie Mack. Mr. Burns used to regularly rile him with insults at old Shibe Park.
That last sentence is not true… it was from The Simpsons episode “Dancin’ Homer.”
Ohio is not just the center of Presidential politics, but the Senate as well. Senator Sherrod Brown is expected to win this race against Josh Mandel. Polling has been consistent for the incumbent Democrat as he has championed a message of economic populism in the Buckeye State.
There are talks that the Senate race in Pennsylvania has tightened between Senator Bob Casey Jr. and Tom Smith, but I think it is just talk. Same with the idea that Pennsylvania in play for Mitt Romney; just talk, no real evidence to support that idea. Casey should be re-elected.
Maine has an election. What was expected to be a likely Republican hold in a likely Obama state, Senator Olympia Snowe retired due to, as she stated, “(an) atmosphere of polarization and 'my way or the highway' ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions.” She was facing a tough primary due to her vote on the Stimulus and supporting “ObamaCare.”
What has emerged was a three-person race between Democratic State Senator Cynthia Dill, Republican Maine Secretary of State Charles E. Summers Jr., and Independent former Maine governor Angus King. Due his prominence as Maine governor, King has an advantage and the polling is showing that. Maine might be following the model of Vermont of having an Independent Senator. It is rumored that King will not caucus with either party, however it is speculated that he supported Barack Obama in his re-election bid. Hey as long as a Republican doesn’t win this race, fine with me.
Connecticut features a repeat candidate. The Republican candidate ran for the US Senate two years ago and is running again this time to fill a seat due to the retirement of Senator Joe Lieberman. Lieberman has had an interesting career in this century. In 2000 he was then-Vice President Joe Biden’s running mate on the Democratic Party ticket. In 2006 after losing his primary election, he opted to run as an Independent. Senator Lieberman drew the ire of many Democrats in 2008 after appearing at the Republican National Convention giving a keynote and campaigned with Senator John McCain.
This Republican candidate running: Linda McMahon. That name sounds familiar. She is the wife of Vince McMahon and her children are Shane and Stephanie.
If you are a fan of wrestling, yes, it is THAT McMahon Family that established World Wrestling Entertainment (formally World Wrestling Federation due to losing a lawsuit to the conservation organization World Wildlife Fund for Nature).
If Ms. McMahon wins, she might be the first US Senator to have gotten a Stone Cold Stunner.
Intriguing… but I think the voters will tell Ms. McMahon to stick to wresting. Rep. Chris Murphy wins this race.
Two history making races are taking place in Massachusetts and Wisconsin. First in Wisconsin, Senator Herb Kohl (D) is retiring and has triggered a competitive election between Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D, WI-2) and former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson who served as Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bush from 2001-05.
Baldwin has a long record defending the middle class, is a member of the House Progressive Caucus, and is listed as one of the most liberal members of the US House.
Thompson has ties to the right leaning shadow legislative organization American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and his success during his tenure as governor of Wisconsin from 1987-01 is greatly inflated. His reforms of social programs actually pushed more families into poverty that moving them up into the middle class and there was an increase of children going without access to health care.
Polling is showing Baldwin with a small lead, but the recent Public Policy Polling shows her with a three point lead. Nate Silver gives her an over 75% chance of winning.
In Massachusetts, incumbent Senator Scott Brown (R) is going up against former university professor and Special Advisor for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Elizabeth Warren (D).
Scott Brown won special election to fill the seat due to the death of Ted Kennedy in 2009. Brown campaigned against Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, who did not take the election seriously. While Senator Brown has backing from Wall Street, Elizabeth Warren running on an economic populist platform stemming from this video tape of her:
This campaign has turned nasty with backers of Senator Brown making racist remarks towards Elizabeth Warren’s heritage. Even though Senator Brown did call on Rep. Todd Akin to resign from the Missouri Senate race after his comments and displays himself as a moderate Republican, that image is not playing over with voters. I think it will go for Elizabeth Warren.
I mentioned history will be made in these races. If Warren of Massachusetts and Baldwin of Wisconsin win, they will be the first female Senators from their respective states. An added bonus in Wisconsin with Baldwin: she will be the first openly gay individual to serve in the US Senate.
And finally Virginia. Six years ago I was living in Suffolk, VA and there was a Senate race going on. I was not as actively involved in politics in 2006 as I am now due to my Navy service.
At the time it was looking like Senator George Allen was going to be easily re-elected. Then he said this:
And that was the moment George Allen lost his Senate seat to Jim Webb.
In 2008, it was rumored that George Allen was going to run for President… problem, that youtube video is still there.
Senator Jim Webb is retiring and so now Allen is thinking that he will return to the Senate. In his path is Tim Kaine, former Virginia governor and Democratic National Committee Chairman.
I am surprised that George Allen still has a career after the “Macaca” tape. This race shouldn’t be close. Someone with a leaning Webb campaign should have just aired this tape as a political ad and be done with it. Allen has a history of uttering racist statements and backed a controversial state song while he was a state legislator.
In the end I see the Democrats claiming 53 seats to the Republicans 45 seats. The two Independents will give them 55 total seats.
113TH CONGRESS, SENATE