The US Senate Elections – The Forgotten Races

It’s that time of year.  No, not Christmas, Election Day.

That means it’s time to dig out the old crystal ball and do some serious gazing.

In case you’ve been incommunicado, we’re voting for President in what appears to be a close race between incumbent Democrat, Barack Obama and Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.

While most all of the focus has been on the presidential contest, it’s more than worth noting that one-third of the 100 Senate seats are also being contested and political party control of that august body of solons is once again in question.

Democrats currently hold a 53 – 47 seat lead in the Senate.  Yes, I know that two of those seats are held by men who call themselves Independent, but both caucus with and vote for almost everything the Democrats propose, so I’m calling them what they really are – Democrats.  There’s yet another candidate who calls himself an Independent – Angus King of Maine – but he’s really a Democrat, too.  More about Mr. King a bit further down the page.

From the basic numbers, it plain to see that the Republicans need a gain of 4 seats in the Senate in order to wrest control from the Democrats.  While that sounds doable, it’s actually quite a tall order because it also means the Republicans would need to hold on to all 10 of the seats they currently hold and flip four incumbent Democrats out of office.  Suddenly, the magic number jumps from 4 to 14.

Probably the only way that might happen is if Mitt Romney won a landslide victory and a gaggle of Republican Senate candidates rode in on his coattails.  Right at this very moment, I’m not prepared to make that kind of prediction.  Although the results from the 2010 midterm elections – a Republican tsunami – remind us it’s possible.

Let’s do some Senate election review.

I see Republicans picking up three states – Nebraska, North Dakota and Montana and it could have been four, but Todd Akin’s “rape” brouhaha in Missouri turned this race into a Democrat hold for Democrat Claire McCaskill.

In Nebraska, Senator Ben Nelson, who sold his soul to the devil and became the deciding vote that enacted Obamacare, decided not to seek re-election.  A wise choice.  Republican, Deb Fischer appears to be taking Democrat Bob Kerrey to the woodshed and that would be a gain of one seat for the Republicans.

In North Dakota, Republican Rick Berg should win handily over Democrat Heidi Heitkamp.  That would be a gain of one more seat for the Republicans as Democrat Kent Conrad decided to spend more time with his family.

In neighboring Montana, Republican Denny Rehberg appears to be opening up a lead over incumbent Democrat Jon Tester.  This one is still fairly close, but Montana is a red state and a strong voter turnout could mean lights out for the Democrat.

And that’s three seats flipped for the Republicans and one more that “shoulda been, but probably won’t be”.

I’m seeing the Democrats hold on to the hotly contested seat in New Mexico and Republicans appear to be holding the edge in Nevada and Massachusetts, where popular Senator Scott Brown just made mincemeat out of his Democrat challenger, Elizabeth Warren in their first debate.  Ms. Warren got herself into all kinds of hot water when she declared herself to be of Native American heritage, but refused to identify her native tribe or offer up any proof of her Indian background.  She’s now the punchline to many a political joke.  Comedians now call her “LieAwatha” and “JokeAHontas”.  Her political career should be reduced to days.

The problem for Republicans with the election of Brown is his tendency to be a RINO on key ideology, much like the two Republican Senators from Maine.  They may be Republicans but they aren’t much help to the Republican cause.

Now, speaking of Maine, an interesting candidate is the favorite to win the Senate seat being vacated by Olympia Snowe.  His name is Angus King – a former Maine Governor who calls himself an Independent and has said he’ll wait until after he’s elected to decide which party to caucus with.  He really needn’t bother with the “mystery thing”.  He’s more closely aligned with left wing Democrats and his positions match up with Socialist, Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

It would appear that Mr. King is planning on becoming the Senate swing vote and will withhold his party affiliation until after he hears what each has to offer.   Politically, however, he’s a left wing Democrat and that would mean a one seat gain for the Democrats – and obviously a one seat loss for the Republicans.

We’re back to the Republicans holding a plus 3 advantage.

I see the races in Wisconsin and Virginia as pure toss ups right at this moment.  In Virginia it’s Republican George Allen vs. Democrat Tim Kaine vieing for the seat being vacated by Democrat Jim Webb.  This race will be watched very closely.  It could be the closest of them all and, perhaps, produce that magical fourth Republican turnover.

In Wisconsin, Democrat Herb Kohl, who won easily in 2006, decided not to seek re-election and that left the door open for former Republican Governor Tommy Thompson and Democrat Tammy Baldwin to fight it out.  This, too, is a seat “in play” and could become that critical fourth Republican gain.

In Connecticut we find Republican Linda McMahon and Democrat Chris Murphy in a duel to determine who takes retiring Independent/Democrat Joe Lieberman’s Senate seat.   McMahon has held her own thus far, but Connecticut is a very blue state and a big voter turnout could derail her chances.  If Murphy wins, Democrats will call it a gain, but it’s really not.  Joe Lieberman caucused with the Democrats, so the number would be a wash.

In Indiana we find Republican Richard Mourdock in a battle with Democrat Joe Donnelly for the seat currently occupied by Republican Richard Lugar.  Lugar was shown the door by Republicans who opted to turn out the incumbent in the primary and selected Mourdock to take his place.  Mourdock is favored to win, which would be another hold for the pachyderm party.

There you have it.  My selections as the key races to control the Senate in the next session of Congress.  And if you were paying close attention, you’ll notice I’m predicting a Republican gain of three seats – one short of removing Senator Harry Reid as the Majority Leader.  It should be four, but Republicans have made a huge blunder in Missouri and that may come back to haunt them.

No matter what is written here, or elsewhere, please take the time to have your say on November 6th.  VOTE!  That’s the poll that matters most.

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