With less than 80 days to go until November 6th the only sure thing one can say about the Senate landscape is that it is unsettled. GOP hopes of a sure takeover of the Senate have disappeared but Democratic hopes of keeping races in Florida and Ohio from becoming competitive have withered.
It seems yesterday the GOP’s Senate takeover hopes took a huge hit when MO Senate candidate Todd Akin said in an interview with TV Host Charles Jaco regarding whether abortion should be illegal in all cases, “From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: You know, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist and not attacking the child.”
This statement earned widespread condemnation not from the left but the Tea Party Express, Crossroads GPS, the RNC, the RNSC and the Romney/Ryan ticket. The GOP is urging Akin to get out of the race before tonight so they can get another candidate on the ballot. So far he has held firm.
Despite Akin’s statement he still has to be regarded as a slight favorite in the race. Claire McCaskill’s vote for the Stimulus and Healthcare Reform drag her down and Akin represents a suburban district with many of the voters McCaskill needs to pull of a win.
Other high-profile races have fallen off the radar of polling but they remain close contests. In North Dakota GOP Candidate Rick Berg is in a dogfight with former Secretary of State Susan Heitdekamp. Sparse polling makes this race hard to gauge by the numbers but the state’s GOP tilt gives Berg the advantage.
In Nebraska, the GOP seems almost assured of winning the seat. State Senator Deb Fischer has a commanding lead over former Governor and Senator Bob Kerrey. Democrats had hoped he could make the state competitive but not so.
In Montana Denny Rehburg is neck and neck with freshman Senator Jim Tester (D). Tester has been pushing local issues while Rehburg has been hammering the freshman on his votes for the Stimulus and Healthcare. Polls show Rehburg has a narrow edge.
New Mexico, Hawaii, Nevada, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio and Virginia all show the makings of close races. In Virginia two former Governors are duking it out and not one poll since January has shown one above the other beyond the pollsters margins of errors. The presidential race results could pull one of the candidates across the finish line.
Nevada and Massachusetts feature two GOP freshman fighting for their political lives in left leaning states. Adding to their woes are that their opponents are progressive champions sure to fire up the Democratic base. Congresswomen Shelley Berkeley (D) has represented urban Las Vegas for several terms and she is trying to eat into Dean Heller’s (R) support in Reno. Elizabeth Warren (D) is trying to win blue-collar traditionally Democratic voters in MA to combat Scott Brown’s (R) strength with suburban voters. Both races are close according to polls.
New Mexico and Hawaii are both traditionally blue states but the GOP found strong challengers. In New Mexico, former Congresswoman Heather Wilson is giving Democratic challenger Martin Heinrich a stiff test. Former two term Governor Linda Lingle (R) promises to give Congresswoman Mazie Hirono a stiff test.
Then we get to Wisconsin, Florida and Ohio. In Wisconsin a former four term GOP Governor Tommy Thompson is set to face liberal and lesbian congresswoman Tammy Baldwin in the competitive state. Thompson benefits from being well-known and also seeing the Romney campaign boosted among state voters by the selection of Ryan as his VP. Baldwin however has the support of major liberal groups such as Emily’s List.
Florida features Congressman Connie Mack (R) facing off against two term Senator Bill Nelson (D). Nelson has not made much of a name for himself in the state as many do not have an opinion of him. Mack is sure to tie him to Obamacare and the Stimulus while Nelson will make Mack’s personal finances an issue in the campaign.
Lastly, in Ohio, State Treasurer Josh Mandel, is facing off against freshman Sherrod Brown (D). Despite his progressive values Brown has a lead over the upstart Mandel that is built on his work in the Ohio House and Congress. Mandel’s campaign has been slow to ramp up to the annoyance of many prominent Republicans.
Other races are on the radar. Minnesota and Michigan could become competitive, though odds are of the two Michigan will. Likewise, it is possible in Maine Independent candidate Angus King could find his GOP opponent a handful.
But the map remains unsettled. The GOP needs three seats (with the VP slot) or 4 seats more to gain control of the Senate. Odds are they lose Maine and NV and MA remain toss-ups. Democrats are sure to lose NB and look likely to lose ND and before yesterday MO. Many other states remain toss-ups. On November 6th the 2012 Senate map will be settled but until then………