2012 Election: The Senate
Perhaps it’s just me, but it seems that even the Senate races are getting less attention than usual this year. I live in proximity to one of the most hotly contested Senate races in the country, and it’s gotten relatively little attention. It’s all the more amazing considering that almost half of the races are fairly competitive, and the gap between the parties is small. Currently, Republicans hold 47 seats while Democrats have 53 (including two independents that caucus with them). If Mitt Romney is elected, Republicans will need to pickup a net of three seats in order to win effective control of the Senate. Considering recent Senatorial history, Republicans would do well to win a few extra seats.
Since Democrats have to defend two-thirds of the seats up for election this cycle, it would seem that Republicans should have a good chance of winning back control of the Senate. Unfortunately a couple of key retirements and several inopportune gaffes have made the Republican road to Senate control all the more difficult.
All that said, I will briefly analyze each of the Senate races. With 33 seats up for grabs, I will be splitting up these posts in batches of 11 each, working my way through them alphabetically. So let’s get to it.
Arizona (open-R) - Republican: Jeff Flake. Democrat: Richard Carmona.
Flake is a six-term House incumbent running against former Surgeon General Richard Carmona to replace the retiring John Kyl. Arizona has long been a Republican stronghold. For years pundits have been waiting for the state to become purple, yet Republicans have managed to hang on state-wide for the most part. It hasn’t turned out to be a swing-state in terms of the presidential election, but Flake has struggled to put away Carmona. Arizona is the third toughest Republican-held Senate safe to defend this cycle, and I predict that they will be able to so – barely. Prediction: Republican hold.
California - Republican: Elizabeth Emken. Democrat: Diane Feinstein (Incumbent).
Not much to say here. Emken has gained no traction, and Feinstein continues to roll. Prediction: Democrat hold.
Connecticut (open I) - Republican: Linda McMahon. Democrat: Chris Murphy.
This has been a fascinating race. Considered to be a fairly safe seat for the Democrats, McMahon – who ran for this same seat in 2010 and lost to the vulnerable Richard Blumenthal by 11 points – suddenly surged in the polls after claiming the nomination. The two have been neck-and-nceck, with Murphy holding a slight edge. As was the case last time, McMahon’s tenure as CEO of the WWE has been a double-edged sword. While it’s certainly helped her campaign coffers, the nature of the wrestling business has bitten her. At the last debate, McMahon tried to boast of the history of job creation at WWE, but Murphy was able to hit back by citing that many of the employees were without benefits and had a habit of dying young. Despite polls showing Connecticut being more competitive in the presidential race than previously imagined, Murphy should be able to hold this for the Democrats. (Technically it would be a pickup, but Lieberman has been an independent in name only.) Prediction: Democrat hold/pickup.
Delaware - Republican: Kevin Wade. Democrat: Tom Carper (Incumbent).
There isn’t even a quirky candidate running to make this semi-compelling. Prediction: Democrat hold.
Florida - Republican: Connie Mack. Democrat: Bill Nelson (Incumbent).
If Republicans fail to capture the Senate, this might be one seat they look upon with regret. With Florida looking less and less like a swing state, and with the perpetually under-fire Nelson being challenged once again, this seems like a prime pickup opportunity for the GOP. Unfortunately Mack hasn’t gained much traction, and Nelson’s fairly moderate voting record keeps him relatively popular among Florida voters. Nelson has maintained a consistent lead since late August; however, two things may work in Mack’s favor. Though he has led throughout, Nelson has been unable to break the 50% mark, which is always a bad sign for incumbents. Further, if reports about the Obama campaign all but ceding the state are true, then that could diminish Democrat turnout on election day. So, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say Mack wins in a squeaker. Prediction: Republican pickup.
Hawaii (open D) - Republican: Laura Lingle. Democrat: Mazie Hirono.
Lingle is a former two-term governor of the state, and she hopes to win the seat of retiring Senator Daniel Akaka. Lingle’s final term didn’t exactly end on a high note, and this state is still fairly solidly blue. Prediction: Democrat hold.
Indiana (open R) - Republican: Richard Mourdock. Democrat: Joe Donnelly.
Mourdock defeated Richard Lugar in the primary to set up this open seat showdown. Donnelly has hung tough with Mourdock, and this will be one of the tougher GOP seats to defend. On the other hand, Indiana is no longer a true battleground, and the Republicans should continue to have the upper hand. Prediction: Republican hold.
Maine (open R) - Republican: Charlie Summers. Democrat: Cynthia Dill. Independent: Angus King.
Despite her status as one of the most left-leaning Republicans in Congress, Olympia Snowe’s announced retirement was a blow to Republican chances to win back control of the Senate. Former governor Angus King’s entrance into the race then complicated things further. The seat has gone from a likely Republican hold with Snowe, to a likely Democrat pickup after Snowe’s announcement, to a likely win for an independent. Unlike with Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman, it is not certain that King would caucus with Democrats, even if that is the more likely outcome. Control of the Senate could ultimately hinge on what King decides to do, assuming he wins – which he probably will. Prediction: Independent pickup/Republican loss.
Maryland - Republican Dan Bongino. Democrat: Ben Cardin (Incumbent).
In any other state Bongino would be a rising star. A former member of the Secret Service, Bongino is a charismatic, well-spoken conservative who reminds me somewhat of Marco Rubio. Ben Cardin is a backbencher with absolutely no accomplishments to speak of. But this is Maryland, and the only thing that matters is having a -D next your name. Prediction: Democrat hold.
Massachusetts - Republican: Scott Brown (Incumbent). Democrat: Elizabeth Warren.
This is a similar dynamic to Maryland in that in most states this wouldn’t be a contest. Brown is a personable moderate who shocked the world by winning the Kennedy seat in a special election two years ago. Fauxcahontas, meanwhile, is the spiritual forerunner of the “you didn’t build that” movement. On top of that, her unique interpretation of her genealogical lineage is the least of her ethical concerns. On the other hand, this is Massachusetts. It’s been a tight race, with Warren and Brown exchanging leads. Warren has pulled slightly ahead in recent weeks, but I think Brown has another comeback in him. Prediction: Republican hold.
Michigan - Republican: Pete Hoekstra. Democrat: Debbie Stabenow (Incumbent).
Another race in which by rights the Republicans ought to be competitive, but Hoekstra has done nothing to get it close against the seemingly vulnerable Stabenow. Prediction: Democrat hold.