Latest Polls: These Senate Races Will Make Republicans Bang Their Heads on November 6
Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock reminded us once again how the Republican Party is going through a generational transition.
A good number of younger Republicans are highly concerned about jobs, the economy, and how to get their career started in a stagnant economy. Older Republicans, still holding onto a religious-moral political ethic, have influenced the election of more socially conservative congressmen and senators.
With that influence, Republicans have lost control of the Senate races they needed to win in order to take control of the Senate. Christine O'Donnell is the best example in 2010, which turned a once safe Republican pickup into a Democrat hold. This year, we were introduced to Todd Akin's 13th century understanding of pregnancy in a race that should, again, have been a Republican pickup.
With that in mind, we go through the Senate races that RealClearPolitics identifies as too close to call, and evaluate how they are likely to turn out come election day. As a spoiler, expect Harry Reid to not pass a budget for the next two years. Republicans will remain the minority. Incumbents will be italicized below.
Nevada: Dean Heller (R) v. Shelley Berkley (D)
Dean Heller is an affable senator that contrasts nicely to Shelley Berkley. The former state senator, secretary of state, and congressman from Carson City has a beautiful family, is a stock car driver, and is generally a friendly guy. Shelley Berkley, on the other hand, has represented the rough and tumble 1st congressional district of Las Vegas. Her ethical lapses are pretty routine for the Las Vegas political class (see "Operation G-String"), and her personality just isn't as affable as Heller's.
Arizona: Jeff Flake (R) v. Richard Carmona (D)
Jeff Flake has represented Arizona's 6th Congressional District for almost 12 years, and he has amassed a conservative voting record along the way. He's also a former executive director of the Goldwater Institute. Arizona is a conservative state, despite the Latino vote helping the state to moderate a bit. The conservative nature of the state hasn't produced a strong candidate for statewide offices for the Democrats, and Carmona's buoyed by the electorate's moderation of the state on issues of immigration.
Montana: Denny Rehberg (R) v. Jon Tester (D)
Montana's not really what one considers a swing state in presidential terms. However, like a good number of Western states, Democrats can have some success. Jon Tester unseated an incumbent in the Democrat wave of 2006. A conservative Democrat, he has also consistently voted to the right of the caucus in the Senate. However, Rehberg is a congressman that already campaigns statewide. Montana's one of seven states with only one congressman that runs statewide. Without a wave of anti-Republican sentiment, Tester may find it difficult to win.
North Dakota: Rick Berg (R) v. Heidi Heitkamp (D)
Prior to 2010, both senators and the congressman from North Dakota were all Democrats. John Hoeven replaced the Democrat Byron Dorgan, and Rick Berg unseated a longtime incumbent congressman in 2010. When Kurt Conrad decided to retire, Berg announced his intention to run for another statewide seat. Much like Montana, North Dakota's congressman is at-large. As such, the conservative nature of the state makes it difficult in the increasingly polarized national electorate for Democrats to seal the deal in such states.
Tough Fights, Unsure Results:
Wisconsin: Tommy Thompson (R) v. Tammy Baldwin (D)
Up and down, Wisconsin is a battleground of ideas more than just a presidential battleground. Scott Walker has ignited a bitter battle over the hearts and minds of Wisconsinites, and that ferocity has carried over to the Senate campaign. Tommy Thompson is a former governor, but ran for office a quarter of a century ago. Then again, Tammy Baldwin is an ultra-liberal from the Madison area in a state that's showing a degree of moderation towards the center. At one point, both candidates showed a significant lead over their opponent. Thompson should get a benefit from the surging Romney campaign and Scott Walker's massive infrastructure network that helped him keep the Governor's office.
Virginia: George Allen (R) v. Tim Kaine (D)
Seven years ago, George Allen was beginning his reelection campaign for the Senate against an obscure Democrat before readying himself to run for president. Six years ago, George Allen was issuing his concession speech to Jim Webb who never should have been a senator to begin with. Being caught on camera throwing racial slurs will do that. Allen's been humbled, but humility may not be enough to push him past popular former governor and DNC Chairman Tim Kaine. The race has been close, but enough voters may forever identify Allen as an arrogant, cocky politician to get elected statewide.
Could Have Been Senators, Should Have Been Senators:
Indiana: Richard Mourdock (R) v. Joe Donnelly (D)
Indiana's a conservative state. Indianapolis can be considered one of the most conservative urban areas in the country, so one would not be surprised if an ultra-conservative won a Senate seat from the Hoosier State. Lugar was a symbol of centrist politics in the state, but Mourdock defeated him in the Republican primary. Nonetheless, he should have sailed to victory against Democrat Congressman Joe Donnelly. Donnelly is a member of the Blue Dog coalition that pushed the Democrats into power in 2006, so he's not a radical in the mold of Nancy Pelosi. Given Mourdock's comments about pregnancy as a consequence of rape being part of God's plan, he's now in a position to siphon moderate Republicans and independents uninterested in being represented by a religious extremist. The timing of those comments to Election Day won't give Mourdock the time to do enough damage control.
Missouri: Todd Akin (R) v. Claire McCaskill (D)
Missouri has titled right in recent years. McCain carried the state in 2008, the only swing state to vote Republican in Obama's tidal wave. Claire McCaskill was firmly in the sights of the Republican caucus to provide the necessary pickup opportunities to take the majority. Enter Todd Akin, and his asinine belief that pregnancy doesn't happen as a result of legitimate rape. Idiocy aside, even Missouri isn't interested in electing an ultra-conservative who cares more about God's will than their own as voters. Congratulations, Todd Akin, you're a moron, and you can be considered the beginning of the Republicans slow demise in the race to take control of the Senate.
Candidates on the Ropes:
Massachusetts: Scott Brown (R) v. Elizabeth Warren (D)
Elizabeth Warren is disgusting. She's a putrid, nasty example of collectivist ideology that represents the worst of humanity. She's a liar about her family heritage, and reflects the academic belief that anything not WASPy is good. As most of the Occupy Wall Street movement did, she blamed greedy bankers on Wall Street for all our economic troubles without ever considering that state intervention may have had a huge role in the crisis, too. Then again, it's Massachusetts. Scott Brown's moderate path he's cut over the last two and a half years won't be enough to save him.
Connecticut: Linda McMahon (R) v. Chris Murphy (D)
Linda McMahon ran two years ago, financed by her immense wealth that comes from running World Wrestling Entertainment. However, her campaign against former Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal fell short by double digits. Afterwards, she maintained a high profile in the state and announced again her intentions to run for the Senate when Lieberman announced his retirement. However, much like Massachusetts, Connecticut is part of the urbanized liberal Northeast that is unlikely to ever consistently elect Republicans. As such, even with troubles for Democrats in the state, Chris Murphy should maintain enough of a lead to carry him through.