Less than 4 days to to go before the midterm elections, we are poised to see a nail-biter on Tuesday night. Republicans have long expected to win the Senate from Democratic control, however Democrats are holding their own. In an election year they were supposed to decisively lose based on history, where the president’s party usually loses power in the middle of the second term, the Democrats are either winning or running very close in these races. Even very tight races are exciting for Democrats since many of them are defending seats in traditionally Republican-leaning states.
Republicans claim to have better candidates running better campaigns this time around. This would be in contrast to 2012 where they were also positioned to win the senate but crazy, extreme candidates derailed that opportunity. But even with these “better” candidates, combined with a year that was made for them to easily take control, the fate of the Senate is far from certain. The polls show that things can go either way as Republicans are fighting for states that they never thought they would, such as Kentucky and Kansas.
Today on Real Talk SATURDAY, we’re doing things a little differently in light of the upcoming elections. Below are Real Talk’s Top 10 Senate Races to watch on Election Day. These races will be the states that determine the balance of power of the United States government as the Senate is on the line.
Top 10 Senate Races
This has been one of the most talked about elections for two main reasons. First, ruby red Kentucky is on the line as a strong Democratic challenger has threatened to turn this seat blue. The second is that the Republican in trouble of losing his seat happens to be the top Republican in the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes was running a fairly strong campaign against the minority leader until a few weeks ago. In trying to distance herself from President Obama, she refused to answer questions about who she voted for president in 2008 and 2012. This, along with tightening polls convinced Democrats that this was a lost race and they pulled ad funding from the state. About a week later they did an about face and started helping the 35 year old challenger again.
Real Talk – Mitch McConnell is still in trouble even with a few stumbles by Grimes. Grimes still has great momentum supporting great initiatives such as increase in minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, and Kentucky’s version of the Affordable Care Act. She has also tied McConnell to partisan and gridlock and that seems to have been resonating with their voters. She has also been endorsed by many of the state’s newspapers. However, if Grimes loses, it will likely because of her stumble around President Obama.
This is another interesting race where Republicans did not expect to have to defend heavily, as Kansas is also typically ruby red. However, with the Democratic challenger dropping out and a new independent candidate being the main competition, Republicans may lose this seat as well. While Independent Greg Orman hasn’t said which side he will caucus with, he may decide the ultimate balance of power.
Real Talk – There’s something I like about independent candidates, even if they are a bit more conservative. In today’s politics everything is about party loyalty. However, sometimes voters just disagree with the candidates for a party and it’s okay to take a second look at an independent candidate. Also, independent candidates tend to be more willing to bring the parties together, find common ground, and cooperate.
This is an open seat where Democrat Bruce Braley looks to keep this seat blue as Democratic Senator Tom Harkin retires. Braley hasn’t asked President Obama to campaign for him much, but the first Lady Michele Obama has been on the stump as well as the Clintons. Democrats have been working hard to keep this seat and had some great momentum. However, in recent days they have begun to feel this race is starting to lean Republican and that Joni Ernst is making headway.
Real Talk – It would have been interesting to see the President go, considering Iowa is where he got his presidential start. He may not be as popular as before, but a reminder of why Iowans voted for him in that first Democratic presidential primary and then twice in the general election, may have galvanized at least that Democratic voter base. If Braley loses, this may be an example of a race, where the President could have done some good.
4. New Hampshire
In a state that voted solidly for President Obama in 2008 and 2012, it may be a surprise that Democratic incumbent, Jeanne Shaheen, is in a tough reelection battle with former Republican Senator Scott Brown, previously of Massachusetts. Brown has continuously tried to tie Shaheen to President Obama while Shaheen has hit Brown hard on his policy stances and the fact that he doesn’t represent the people of New Hampshire. This is another very tight race, but should have a decisive winner as we close out the night of November 4.
Real Talk – Scott Brown is a career politician and doesn’t deserve to be back in the Senate. After losing his seat in 2012 to Elizabeth Warren, Brown moved to the neighboring state so that he can run in that election. That is a clear sign of being a career politician. I don’t understand how he can adequately represent a state that he has only lived in for a year. Ultimately, New Hampshire citizens will make the call, but Scott Brown seems sketchy to me.
This race in Georgia may be a late decider of the balance of power as it may go to in a run-off in January. This seat also went to a runoff in 2008 when the Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss was ultimately reelected. Though the outcome may be repeated, this 2014 race may have huge implications. This race is also getting attention because of the huge gubernatorial race going on simultaneously. The Democratic challenger, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, is running an good race as well.
Real Talk – Personally, I think this is one of the better Democratic campaigns we’ve see from across the country. I think on the senatorial and gubernatorial side of things, Democrats are still running very close and have decent chances of picking up those seats. Unfortunately, if it goes to a run off for the senate seat, Republican chances increase greatly.
Democratic incumbent, Mary Landrieu has been in trouble of losing her seat. She has tried to make her election local, while her challenger has continued to nationalize this race and continuously tied her to President Obama, who is very unpopular in Louisiana.
Recently, she has tried to rebound by interjecting racial issues, claiming that the South hasn’t been friendly to the Black community. While there is truth in that statement, it will be interesting to see if this tactic to turnout the Black vote works and if it does, whether she will actually do anything to help the Black community in her state.
Real Talk – Mary Landrieu’s new tactic may not work without the first Black president of the United States. She has distanced herself from President Obama but now looks to attract a key voting block of the president. This race may go to a run off, so we’ll see if the President is used in December through a runoff campaign.
Mark Udall, out of the few Democratic incumbents, is one of the likeliest to lose his seat in Colorado. Udall’s numbers were already close, as to be expected in a solidly purple state. However, things have gotten worse and the Udall campaign and Demorats generally are getting increasingly worried about losing this seat to the Republicans.
Real Talk – Udall looks to be out of a job and I don’t think there is much that can be done. A key Democratic constituency in Colorado, the Latino community might just stay home due to the lack of action from the president and Congress to take on comprehensive immigration reform. Udall’s chances looks the most grim out of all senate candidate Democrats in 2014.
Another neck and neck race in crimson red Alaska, where Democratic incumbent, Mark Begich is down in the polls but within the margins of error. Begich thought that distancing himself from the president would help his race out, but it hasn’t thus far. Begich is likely to lose his seat, but his campaign is still fighting until the very last minute.
Real Talk – While I think Begich may lose his seat in Alaska, the fact that this Democratic incumbent is still polling relatively close to his Republican challenger says something about his candidacy. He won in 2008 in large part because of the criminal issues facing the late Senator Ted Stevens. This seat was always likely to go back red, but Begich is holding his own and is still in there. We’ll see if he can finish strong.
9. North Carolina
Democratic incumbent, Kay Hagan got in trouble a bit earlier after being called out for not attending some important senate committee meetings. She also didn’t show up to the senatorial debate with her opponent. But she and Democratic grassroots organizations have been on the ground and doing a very good job of mobilizing their base. While President Obama lost this state narrowly in 2012, Hagan is on track for a narrow victory if she keeps up the great campaign. Her only misstep was not attending the debate between her and the Republican candidate. Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to have as much of an impact at least in current polls.
Real Talk – I really want Kay Hagan to win this race. However, I don’t like when politicians avoid these types of events. The debate is a place where the constituents are able to listen to the politicians and get an idea of where the candidates are on the issues. It was a missed opportunity for Hagan and quite frankly a slap in the face of her constituents. Hopefully that isn’t her downfall in this election.
10. Arkansas –
In another race where a Democratic incumbent tries to hold on to a solidly red seat, Senator Mark Pryor’s campaign is hanging by a thread. Losing narrowly to his Republican challenger in the polls, Pryor even dispatched former Arkansas Governor and President Bill Clinton to help turn out voters. Still, Pryor is losing in the polls and is another Democrat likely to lose his seat.
Real Talk – In a time of anti-incumbency, Pryor may be another victim voters wanting a change. After serving a few terms in Congress tied with the unpopularity of President Obama in that state, Arkansans are on the verge of voting to change the color of that particular seat.
Ultimately, Republicans have the advantage but Democrats are still in there and may pull it out. But nothing will be clear until Election Day at the earliest. But with Republicans effectively tying Democrats to an unpopular, sixth-year president, and the Democrats running strong races in red states, this is the epitome of a nail-biter. The balance of power rests in these 10 and many other races throughout the country.
Real Talk Issues will have live coverage of the 2014 Midterm Election on Tuesday, November 4th.
New York Times – Early Voting Numbers Look Good for Democrats
Huffington Post – Kentucky Newspapers Endorse Alison Lundergan Grimes
Politico – Democrats fear Iowa slipping away
Five Thirty Eight – Senate Update: A Troubling Trend For Democrats In Colorado
Politico – Mary Landrieu’s last ride?