Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

A Snapshot of Senate Races

In Senate on July 30, 2014 at 9:57 am

With the plethora of polls providing us snapshots of the various Senate battles around the country, it’s a good time to reflect about where the races stand today.

As we know, Republicans need to convert six Democratic seats to claim the Senate majority so long as they win every state they currently control. Their position is strengthened because they realistically risk only two (Kentucky and Georgia) of the 15 GOP in-cycle seats.

  • Safe Republican (11): Alabama (Jeff Sessions), Idaho (Jim Risch), Maine (Susan Collins), Nebraska (open: Ben Sasse), Oklahoma (Jim Inhofe), Oklahoma (open: James Lankford), South Carolina (Lindsey Graham), South Carolina (Tim Scott), Tennessee (Lamar Alexander – though he has primary competition on August 7), Texas (John Cornyn), and Wyoming (Mike Enzi).
  • Highly Likely Republican (2): Kansas (Pat Roberts – facing primary competition on August 5), Mississippi (Thad Cochran).
  • Highly Likely Democratic (3): Hawaii (Brian Schatz – faces primary competition on August 9), New Jersey (Cory Booker), New Mexico (Tom Udall).
  • Likely Democratic (3): Minnesota (Al Franken), Oregon (Jeff Merkley), Virginia (Mark Warner).
  • Safe Democratic (4): Delaware (Chris Coons), Illinois (Dick Durbin), Massachusetts (Ed Markey), Rhode Island (Jack Reed).

  • This means the remaining 13 seats are in the competitive territory. The most probable to remain in current party control, thereby leaning either to the incumbent or candidate of the incumbent’s party are:

  • Lean Democratic (2): Michigan (open: Gary Peters), New Hampshire (Jeanne Shaheen)
  • Lean Republican (2): Georgia (open: David Perdue), Kentucky (Mitch McConnell)
  • Democratic seats headed to Republicans (3): Montana (open: Steve Daines), South Dakota (open: Mike Rounds), West Virginia (open: Shelley Moore Capito)
  • Republican seats headed to Democrats: (0)
  • Toss-up Seats Trending Republican (1): Arkansas (Mark Pryor)
  • Toss-up Seats Trending Democratic (1): Louisiana (Mary Landrieu)
  • Pure Toss-ups (4): Alaska (Mark Begich), Colorado (Mark Udall), Iowa (open: Bruce Braley-D vs. Joni Ernst-R), North Carolina (Kay Hagan).

Therefore, for Republicans to claim the majority, they need to win 21 of the 36 contests to be decided on Nov. 4, while the Democrats must claim 16 victories in order to maintain control.

Today, according to the above delineation of races, the GOP is now poised to win 19 contests, counting the Arkansas Toss-up as trending their way. This means, if the chart analysis proves true, that the Republicans would need to win any two of the four toss-ups. To hold the majority, again assuming the chart is 100 percent accurate, the Dems would still need to win three of the four pure toss-ups to preserve their hold. Thus, the Republicans have gained a slight advantage despite having to win considerably more races, because they only have to win half of the toss-ups, while the Democrats must take three-quarters.

Unless one party catches a minor or major wave going into Election Day, the majority will likely be decided by a small number of voters in the four pure Toss-up states, thus Senate control will conceivably turn on what happens in Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, and North Carolina.

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