We promise not to nag you about the importance of voting in the midterm elections. (They're today!) Okay, maybe we’ll nag you a little, because though the midterms don’t carry the weight of determining our next Commander in Chief, they do count. The races for the Senate are especially important. Not only will the winners determine how much (if any) legislating gets done during the last years of Obama's presidency, but a Senate term is six years, so whoever gets elected will be around for a whole other president.
To gain control of the Senate, Republicans will need to win a total of six seats, and they very well might. The New York Times’ forecasting model predicts that the GOP (with Mitch McConnell as current Senate minority leader and potential new majority leader) has a 69% chance of taking the Senate; other outlets also report clear momentum swelling in the GOP’s direction. If that happens, things could get ugly for Obama, who has been depending on the Senate’s Democratic majority to help counter the GOP’s congressional incentives. Here are five of the tighter races worth watching (and voting in!) today.
According to an NBC/Marist poll, back in September, Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall was pulling ahead of Republican rival Cory Gardner in a six-point lead. The tides have shifted, though, and now Gardner’s only hanging on to a one-point gain. It makes sense that the race would be close: Both candidates have been fundraising up a storm, effectively squashing Colorado’s former fundraising record for a Senate race. According to the Denver Post, Gardner and Udall together have raised around $27 million since September 30, and outside groups have pitched in approximately $56 million to the showdown. Michelle Obama even stumped for Udall in October, emphasizing his position on reproductive rights, one of his core platforms as he tries to nab the state’s female voters.
Democrat Mark Begich is fighting to keep his Senate seat in yet another neck-and-neck race — the priciest in Alaska’s history. And, Begich’s personal history isn’t necessarily doing him any favors. He hardly scraped by in 2008, and his links to Obama’s presidency (less than popular in the state) have been damaging his rep there. Recent polls show his competitor, Republican Dan Sullivan, leading 47 to 42. Still, Begich’s focus on “the bush” of Alaska — the state’s remote rural communities, which comprise a sizeable subset of the regions outside Fairbanks and Anchorage — seems to appeal to residents. For his part, Sullivan has just started reaching out to those communities within the last week.
This race just might shape up to be the closest in the country. Right-wing Iowa senator Joni Ernst has been shaking things up with a contentious campaign (her infamous “I castrate hogs” ad and her dismissal of President Obama as a “dictator” are two shining examples), fraught with bold remarks that drew widespread media attention. She also bailed out of an important meeting with the editorial board of the influential state newspaper The Des Moines Register at the last minute, claiming her schedule didn't allow for it (critics said she was dodging tough questions about her record). Her Democratic opponent Bruce Braley, meanwhile, has also drawn heat for comments that seemed to mock senior Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley as “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school.” On Sunday, an NBC-Marist survey showed Ernst with a three-point edge.
According to a Suffolk University/USA Today poll released October 27, Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu is in for a December runoff against Republican Representative Bill Cassidy. (A runoff is a second election that happens when the initial one doesn’t establish a winner.) As of October 27, Landrieu was just one point ahead of Cassidy, but Republican Rob Maness is in the game, too, at about 11%, making it improbable that either of the two top contenders will take the majority next week. The current situation in Louisiana isn’t skewing very favorably for Dems — Landrieu has a 38% approval rate there. She’s a political veteran in the state, though, and her campaign platforms have been broad, focusing on social security, hurricane relief, and retaining gas and oil interests. Landrieu is Louisiana’s only standing Democratic elected official, so this will be quite a fight.
Some polls seem to predict a runoff in this state as well. Georgia’s rising Latino population (approximately 900,000), though, could become one of the bigger factors in the state’s close race. Overall, Latinos still comprise a smallish portion of the electorate, but if the bulk of that community votes one way, it could have a perceivable impact. Georgia currently has one of the strictest immigration policies in the country, and immigration laws are one of the top issues at play in the state. The Senate contenders (Michelle Nunn, a Democrat, and David Perdue, a Republican) have both made immigration a key aspect of their platforms, but — not surprisingly — they have differing proposed strategies for how they’ll tackle it.