We’re in the home stretch now as we look at the final set of Senate races. Each of these contests are either complete tossups or utter blowouts.
Pennsylvania – Republican: Tom Smith. Democrat: Bob Casey (Incumbent).
This race had flown under the radar as it appeared that Casey was cruising to re-election. Smith started gaining momentum at a time when nearly every other Republican was losing it, and he has now narrowed the gap. Even when Casey was well ahead he was failing to poll at the magical 50% number. Casey’s problem is representative of the shift in the Pennsylvania Democratic party. While his father was a true social conservative, and therefore a good fit for the state, the younger Casey pays only lip service to abortion and other issues. I think that Casey will survive, but only barely, and for just one more term. Prediction: Democrat hold.
Rhode Island – Republican: Barry Hinckley. Democrat: Sheldon Whitehouse (Incumbent).
A Republican polling firm has this race in single digits. Until I see other polls showing it that close, it still looks to be a pretty safe seat for Whitehouse. Prediction: Democrat hold.
Tennessee – Republican: Bob Corker (Incumbent). Democrat: Mark Clayton.
Corker was just about the only Republican to win a close election in 2006. He won’t have to sweat this time. Prediction: Republican hold.
Texas (open R) – Republican: Ted Cruz. Democrat: Paul Sadler.
Democrats in Texas must feel like Republicans in New York and California. One would think in a state as big as Texas, as Republican-dominated as it is, Democrats would be able to field a semi-competitive candidate. As it is, the real election occurred over the summer when Cruz upset the state’s Lieutenant Governor in a primary runoff. The only question about this contest is how big Cruz’s margin of victory will be. Prediction: Republican hold.
Utah – Republican: Orrin Hatch (Incumbent). Democrat: Scott Howell.
For once Orrin Hatch had to battle for re-election, but it wasn’t the general election that he had to worry about. Hatch was able to avoid the fate of his former colleague, Bob Bennett, and successfully fended off a tea party challenge for the nomination. Hatch had a little more conservative credibility than Bennett, obtaining the support of figures like Mark Levin. Having won re-nomination, Hatch will cruise in the general. Prediction: Republican hold.
Vermont – Republican: John MacGover. Independent: Bernie Sanders (Incumbent).
If there is a silver lining for Republicans, it is that this will continue to be technically a non-Democrat seat. Yeah, I’m stretching. Prediction: Independent hold.
Virginia (open D) – Republican: George Allen. Democrat: Tim Kaine.
In a year of tossups, this might be the tossiest-up of them all. Allen is running to regain the seat that he macaca’d himself out of six years ago. Allen has done better than he did during the last campaign, when he spent the better part of the Fall running negative ads against Jim Webb in a desperate effort to deflect attention away from his macaca moment. The 2006 election was one where partisans on both sides wished both candidates would just go away. Now, in an election pitting two former, relatively popular governors, once again it seems there is surprisingly little enthusiasm. At times it appears that both candidates are kind of going through the motions to win a seat neither really desperately wants, but feel compelled to run for out of some sense of party loyalty. It is truly a strange dynamic, and the voters have expressed their own confusion by failing to break for either candidate. It’s almost impossible to pick a winner, but I’ll go with Allen to win back the seat. No matter who wins, I sense that this will be an open-seat contest again in 2018. Prediction: Republican pickup.
Washington – Republican: Michael Baumgartner. Democrat: Maria Cantwell (Incumbent).
Another seat that the Republicans had some hopes for at the beginning of the year, but this was never a race. Prediction: Democrat hold.
West Virginia – Republican: John Raese. Democrat: Joe Manchin (Democrat).
Manchin has done a masterful job of persuading Mountaineers that he’s a rogue independent while siding with his party when it really matters. Prediction: Democrat hold.
Wisconsin (open D) – Republican: Tommy Thompson. Democrat: Tammy Baldwin.
This race has followed a path unlike most of the others. When former governor Tommy Thompson won the nomination this seemed like a prime Republican pickup opportunity, and Thompson did hold a double digit lead over the summer. Baldwin received a nice post-convention bounce, and she and Thompson have swapped leads it seems with every other poll. Thompson may have seemed like the safe choice for many Republicans in the state, but this is a case where the other candidate’s relative youth may be too much to overcome. Prediction: Democrat hold.
Wyoming – Republican: John Barrasso (Incumbent). Democrat: Tim Chestnut.
I don’t anticipate we’ll be up late waiting to hear a winner announced here. Prediction: Republican hold.
FINAL ANALYSIS: I have the Republicans picking up Florida, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, and Virginia, while losing Maine. That would be a net gain of five seats for the GOP, giving them a 52-48 majority (assuming the independents caucus with Democrats). I’m starting to rethink my Florida and Missouri calls, though I can see Ohio, Pennsylvania, and especially Wisconsin breaking in their favor (though Massachusetts can also swing the other way). Whatever the case may be, my most fearless prediction is this: we will know the identity of the next president much earlier in the evening on election night than we will which party will control the Senate.