A Howey/DePauw poll of the Indiana senate race released today shows Democratic nominee Joe Donnelly with a 47 percent to 36 percent lead over Republican nominee Richard Mourdock. Mourdock experienced his own gaffe on the abortion and rape issues in a recent debate and has seen his standing in the polls plummet since. Today's Real Clear Politics average of polls for the Missouri senate race shows highly vulnerable incumbent Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill leading by five percent over Republican challenger Todd Akin. This senate race has been put in disarray since Akin's “legitimate rape” gaffe earlier this year after winning the nomination. The story of the Indiana and Missouri senate seats is the story of the Republican Party's possible failure to win a majority in the senate this year. These two seats were once solid bets for Republican wins that have become seats likely to be won by the Democrats.
Recent polling indicates Republican Deb Fischer leading former Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey in Nebraska while Democrats are safe bets to win the open Maine senate seat via the candidacy of Independent former governor Angus King (who is widely expected to caucus with the Democrats as senator) and hold on to seats in Hawaii, Michigan, New Jersey, Washington state and West Virginia. Pennsylvania and Michigan also lean to the Democrats. Those seats, and the senate seats not up for election this year, would give the Democrats 45 senate seats, and the Republicans 43 seats, leaving 12 other seats up for grabs. Those 12 seats, highlighted in this analysis, will decide the senate majority for the next session of Congress.
Florida: This race matches up incumbent Democrat Senator Bill Nelson with Congressman Connie Mack, the son of former Florida Republican Senator Connie Mack who was elected in 1988. Nelson has gained some advantage in the last couple weeks and now leads by 6.7 percent in the RCP average. Gravis Marketing, PPP, SurveyUSA, Rasmussen, and Sunshine State News/VSS all have Nelson at 49 percent. Nelson seems very likely to reach the magic 50 percent and get reelected. This seat is likely Democrat.
Arizona: Republican Congressman Jeff Flake faces Democrat and former Surgeon General Richard Carmona. Rasmussen's Arizona survey of Oct. 21 shows Flake leading 50 percent to 44 percent. Arizona remains a solid Republican state and Flake is the stronger candidate in this race. This race is likely Republican.
Connecticut: After losing two years ago the state's other senate seat to Richard Blumenthal, who got caught lying about serving in Vietnam, Republican Linda McMahon hopes for better odds this year against Congressman Chris Murphy, the Democrat. The October 28 survey of this race by Rasmussen shows Murphy leading 51 percent to 45 percent. This seat leans Democrat.
Indiana: State Treasurer Richard Mourdock defeated Senator Richard Lugar in the primary this past year and faces Democrat Congressman Joe Donnelly. Indiana is still a strong Republican state and Mourdock should easily win this race. But the abortion and rape gaffe by Mourdock has also put this race in disarray. This one moves to likely Democrat.
Massachusetts: This race is between Republican incumbent Senator Scott Brown, who won the special election in 2010 and Democrat nominee Elizabeth Warren. Brown faces two large challenges in his question for reelection: the heavily Democratic makeup of the state's electorate (48 percent Democrats to 12 percent Republicans) and the wide margin by which President Obama is leading in the state, despite it also being the home state of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, the state's former governor. While Brown is personally more popular, Warren has effectively mobilized her base among Democrats who are strongly against the notion of Republicans gaining a majority in the senate. Brown has to win an enormously huge percentage of the independents voters, who make up about 40 percent of the state, to have a chance at winning this race. Democrats are much more strongly backing Warren than they did their 2010 nominee, state Attorney General Martha Coakley. The Real Clear Politics analysis sums up this race by saying, “Brown has done most everything right for a Republican in the Bay State, but in a presidential year even that might not be enough.” The key words there, other than Scott Brown doing everything right, is might not be enough. The latest Rasmussen survey of this race, based on a sample that is favorable to the Republicans by 4-5 percent, shows Warren leading 52 percent to 47 percent. There is no choice but to move this race to leans Democrat.
Missouri: Controversial incumbent Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill faces the equally controversial Republican Congressman Todd Akin in this race. McCaskill got caught flying chartered jets at taxpayer expense and called for the public to “take up pitchforks” against Republicans for opposing President Obama's legislative agenda in the Senate. Akin nearly destroyed his chances with his infamous “legitimate rape” gaffe. The safest bet one can make on this race, is that the winner of it will be surely the most vulnerable incumbent senator six years from now. McCaskill maintains a lead in the RCP average of polls and has this race leaning Democrat.
Montana: Incumbent Democrat Senator Jon Tester, an upset winner six years ago, faces the state's only Congressman, Republican Denny Rehberg. Montana is a strongly Republican state and should reassert that leaning by sending Rehberg to Washington as senator. This state leans Republican.
Nevada: Republican Senator Dean Heller runs against Democratic Congresswoman Shelley Berkley in this contest. Nevada is currently a quite competitive “purple” state that used to be a strongly Republican state. Most of the polls have shown Heller leading and in a Republican leaning turned “purple” state that usually means a Republican win. This race leans Republican.
North Dakota: Congressman Republican Rick Berg seeks a promotion to the senate, and runs against state Attorney General Democrat Heidi Heitkamp. This is a very heavily Republican state that Romney will easily win and help bring out enough votes to help Berg get elected in a much closer race. Berg has opened up a substantial lead in the RCP average of polls, leads all the polls in the average and has reached 50 percent in two recent surveys. This state is likely Republican.
Ohio: This state is most likely to be the center of gravity in the presidential race this year and the winner of this state for the presidency might also carry the party's nominee in this race to victory in the senate race. If Obama wins Ohio, expect incumbent Democrat Senator Sherrod Brown to hold on to his seat. If Mitt Romney wins in this state, it is will be more likely that Republican state Treasurer Josh Mandel will be elected senator. Recent polls show the state trending toward Romney and the senate race has been tied in most polls. Mandel seems to have peaked and Brown has opened a substantial lead in the RCP average of polls. This seat leans Democrat.
Virginia: This race is a battle between former Democratic governor Tim Kaine and former governor and senator, Republican nominee George Allen. This race has been all but tied for the entire election season and will be very close. The winner of this state in the presidential election might help one of the candidates win this race, but that is not assured. Kaine is running ahead of Obama and appears to be able to win a close race. This seat leans Democrat.
Wisconsin: This state elected Republicans Ron Johnson as senator and Scott Walker as governor two years ago and is becoming more Republican. But this year's senate race has been quite close between Democratic nominee, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin and former Republican Governor Tommy Thompson. This state is too close to call for this senate seat as well as in the presidential race. This race just about tied in the RCP average of polls but Thompson should be able to eke out a close win. This race leans Republican.
Of those 12 senate races, five are projected to be won by the Republican nominees and seven are projected to be won by the Democrats. This leads to 52 Democratic senators and 48 Republican senators. For the Republicans to win the senate majority, assuming a tie-breaking vote of the vice president if Romney and Ryan win, they will need to win any two of the of the following close seats: Massachusetts, Virginia, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. The odds of a 50 seat Republican senate comes down to looking for two upset possibilities among the close races. Democrats are likely to maintain a majority in the senate.