2016 was going to be a tough year for Republicans defending the gains made the last time these seats were up six years earlier. In 2010, Republicans won senate seats in Florida, Indiana, Illinois, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin as well as re-election of incumbents in Arizona, Iowa, Missouri, and North Carolina. Democrats were successful in holding seats in Colorado and Nevada.
Why are these states mentioned?
With the exception of Arizona, Indiana, Missouri, and North Carolina, Obama won the remaining 7 states twice in his presidential runs. While Indiana and North Carolina were Obama states in 2008, both states were in the Republican column in 2012 though North Carolina is trending more towards battleground while Indiana has reverted back to a reliably red state.
Here are my picks for some key senate races to keep an eye on while watching the election coverage on Tuesday night. For the purposes of full disclosure, here is a list of senators I donated money to this cycle.
With the retirement of Senator Barbara Boxer, my pick in this race will be the Democrat.
The question is who.
California instituted a primary election where the top-two vote-getters for non-presidential elections that took effect four years ago. In June, the top-two vote getters were California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, both Democrats. This race has effectively rendered the Republican Party moot in California for the foreseeable future.
The race has had its moments where during a debate Sanchez dabbed.
Polling has consistently shown that Harris is leading. I don’t see anything that would dramatically change the outcome. I predict that when the polls close in California, Kamala Harris will be the next senator from California.
IT’S A JUNGLE OUT THERE
Louisiana has a unique feature of their elections where everyone runs on election day and if no one gets 50%, the top two advance to a head-to-head in December.
When Senator David Vitter announced his retirement after losing the Louisiana Gubernatorial a year ago, a total of TWENTY-FOUR candidates filed to run: 8 Democrats, 7 Republicans, 2 Libertarians, 3 Independents, 2 identifying as other...
And David Duke
The former Klan leader who won a seat in the Louisiana legislature and then later ran for Louisiana governor in 1991. The national Republican Party including George H.W. Bush and Lee Atwater disavowed Duke and encouraged voters to vote for the Edwin Edwards.
Duke was inspired to run for this seat due to the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump. The Republican candidate has not disavowed Duke.
Duke met a poling threshold and qualified to participate in a debate at Dillard University, a historically black college and university. It went as well as you expected.
The auditorium was empty
And let’s not forget his adoring fans… no, wait, these are protestors condemning him and the university for allowing him to participate.
Trump won the presidential primary back in the spring and will likely carry the state on Tuesday. While polling is showing that the runoff will be between John Neely Kennedy (R) and Caroline Fayard (D), it is reassuring that Duke polled at 3% which is way too high.
There will be a runoff and Kennedy is favored.
For Ann Kirkpatrick in Arizona and Patty Judge in Iowa it was going to be a difficult task to unseat long serving incumbent presidents.
Arizona at the presidential level is looking like a battleground in part due to the Trump candidacy. Trump has made Arizona a regular stopping point that he was asked to not come back again. This has mobilized the long dormant Latino voting bloc in the state to mobilize.
Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, and Bernie Sanders have stumped in this state. Clinton made a quick stop in Phoenix after a Nevada campaign event and it is impressive to the point that maybe Arizona is a battleground state this cycle. If not, it is certainly an emerging one that both parties will fight for in future elections.
Meanwhile in the Arizona Senate race, John McCain has threaded a fine needle. He was able to win his senate primary without upsetting his party’s base who strongly supported Trump in the presidential primary. Then after winning the primary he distanced himself from Trump due to the revelation of the Access Hollywood tape.
Yeah… it wasn’t after Trump said you weren’t a hero for being captured…
Iowa was going to be tough. Senator Chuck Grassley is up for his sixth term and has drawn criticism for blocking President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee from receiving a hearing before the judiciary committee. Despite this, many handicappers have kept this race in the likely to strong Republican category.
These were going to be tough seats to flip despite Iowa went for Obama twice and the emergence of Arizona as a battleground. Grassley by a comfortable margin while McCain may sweat it out but should win re-election.
Senator Rob Portman might pull of the successful feat of distancing himself from his party’s nominee along with the red tilt that Ohio is exhibiting this cycle. Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland has not cracked 45% in recent polling. Barring a major surprise, Portman is re-elected and sets himself up a favorite in the post-2016 electoral landscape.
A MISSED OPPORTUNITY?
Given the turnout and the potential demographic makeup in Florida by analyzing the ballots received, it is looking favorable for Hillary Clinton to carry the state. The senate race however paints a different prospect and could leave Democrats kicking themselves on election night.
Senator Marco Rubio decided to forego his senate re-election to run for president. After losing the Florida primary, Rubio dropped out and looked like he was going to be one of the longest lame ducks in the Senate. Prior to the June filing deadline, Rubio announced that he was going to run for re-election.
Like Portman in Ohio, Rubio has managed to shake off the Trump label and the accusations that he is only running for re-election in order to position himself for his next presidential run.
Rubio has an average polling lead of 3.4 points according to Talking Points Memo, but a recent Survey Monkey poll shows a tightening race with Patrick Murphy tying him at 49.
Could Murphy pull off the win?
In 2012, Senator Ben Nelson comfortably won re-election while Obama claimed the state’s 29 electoral votes two days after Election Day. Given this history of the presidential and senatorial elections varying, it is possible there will be voters splitting their tickets between these two races.
Obama at a stump speech in Florida rallied attendees to not only vote for Clinton but also vote for Murphy. That might not be enough since the DSCC pulled advertising for Murphy from the state only to just recently reengage during the early vote period. Senator Chuck Shumer has been criticized for continuing to pour money into his re-election bid, where he will be comfortably re-elected in New York, and not sending it down south.
I’m not certain of the strength of the Florida Democrats coordinated campaign, but if it is strong it can overcome this oversight. While it is not impossible for Murphy to pull off the win given Florida’s voter demographics, it is looking like Marco Rubio will survive.
Democrats will win one of these seats. Either Evan Bayh in his comeback bid or this guy:
These are tough races in reliably red states.
Kander unseats Roy Blunt while Republicans hold the seat in Indiana
SAFELY IN REACH
The numbers out of Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin appear promising for Democratic candidates in these states.
Jon Ralston reports that Nevada is likely going for Clinton due to building a strong firewall in the state. Six years ago, Harry Reid was expected to lose his senate race. As pointed out by Rachel Maddow in her October 2010 interview with him, Reid had a strong in-state GOTV operation while his opponent had outside groups like Karl Rove to assist with their efforts.
It is looking like the Reid Machine is making one last performance and not only will keep the seat in Democratic hands for his successor, Catherine Cortez Masto, but could save the country from Trump.
In Colorado, as I noted in my endorsement of Michael Bennett, the state Republican Party selected someone whose politics are not in line with the political makeup of the state.
Pennsylvania might be the closest races of these groups of states. 9 of the last 10 polls according to Talking Points Memo poll tracker show Katie McGinty either tied or in the lead. The only poll that shows her trailing the incumbent, Pat Toomey, is by 1 and was recently released on Sunday.
Tammy Duckworth is an overall badass. I said this in 2012 and I will modify it for 2016: I look forward to seeing her walk from the House chamber and into the Senate to take the oath as senator.
Surprisingly Russ Feingold is a much closer race than expected to reclaim the
In order of election ease: Bennett (by possibly a double-digit landslide, unheard of today in modern Colorado political history), Duckworth, Matso, Feingold, and McGinty
TOO CLOSE TO CALL
These races could last into the night as well as determining overall control of the US Senate.
In New Hampshire, Governor Maggie Hassan is facing off against incumbent Senator Kelly Ayotte. This was expected to be a closely watched race and certainly lived up to expectations. In an October debate, Senator Ayotte said that Donald Trump was a good role model for her children.
I beg to differ.
In North Carolina, the state has emerged as a battleground for all three high profile statewide contests: the race for the state’s highly coveted 15 electoral votes, senate, and gubernatorial.
Obama won North Carolina in 2008 by a slim margin but lost the state in 2012 by 2 points. Governor Pat McCrory signing the anti-LGBT HB-2 has led to economic boycotts including the NBA moving the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte. Senator Richard Burr joked about Hillary Clinton being shot.
Besides that, there is another reason why I personally want Burr out of the senate: he said veterans and their advocacy groups don’t have their priorities in order.
Well, I never forgot those comments and I was damn proud to donate some money to Deborah Ross’ campaign.
All those three races in North Carolina feed off each other. Since the presidential is the top, that means it will help the downballots. The unpopularity of Pat McCrory over HB-2 helps his Democratic opponent Roy Cooper as well as helps the other two high profile offices.
Three of the last five polls recorded by Talking Points Memo have Ross with a lead. The average of polls shows her with a 0.2% lead.
A split seems likely, but I could see both candidates win both races.
Democrats might end up with at least 50 seats in the senate (and with Tim Kaine as vice-president) full control of that chamber.
FINAL RESULT: Democrats 52-48