U.S. Senate races are a key component if the Democrats are to maintain a majority in Congress and leverage to support President Obama in the next four years as recovery from the Great Recession moves forward.
Currently, Democrats hold 53 seats and the Republicans 47. According to polls for the 2012 elections, the race for control of the Senate will be tight, with seats up for grabs in seven states: Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, and Virginia. Some states, like Hawaii, are leaning Democratic, and campaigning should not let up as the election is less than two months away. It is not safe to assume victory or defeat in states that are leaning Democratic or Republican.
Here are some races to keep an eye on:
According to a poll conducted by the North Carolina-based Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, , a six-term senator, narrowly leads with 44 percent to 43 percent over Carmona. This is the first publicly released poll of the U.S. Senate race since Flake won in a GOP primary battle against multimillionaire Wil Cardon.
The poll of 1,000 voters was conducted Sept. 7-9 and showed 13 percent undecided, withleading President Obama among Arizona voters.
Democratic candidate Carmona has appeal on both sides of the aisle. He was surgeon general under Presidentfor four years and has a broad following, which makes him competitive to an electorate of diverse backgrounds.
He was born and raised in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood to Puerto Rican parents with drug and alcohol problems. He enlisted in the Army after dropping out of high school and went on to become a decorated military veteran, surgeon and medical professor, and later a deputy sheriff in Arizona.
Political analyst Mike O’Neil described Carmona as a “Democratic dream candidate” who just might be the first Democratic senator from Arizona since 1995. Not only that, Carmona could also be the first Hispanic senator in the state’s 100-year history.
“Much of his biography makes him an ideal candidate,” O’Neil told VOXXI.
Connecticut: Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy has served in the House of Representatives since 2007. He is running for the Senate this year to replaceand is facing Republican candidate Linda McMahon. As the race gathers momentum, Democrats are releasing two new ads attacking McMahon, indicating the race is heating up as Democrats issue counter ads while McMahon could be gaining.
The Murphy campaign put out a new ad on Wednesday accusing McMahon of misleading voters on her business record, an attack taken up in another ad released by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee as a part of a $320,000 ad buy in the state.
Murphy's ad says that during her time as CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, McMahon laid off workers and denied them health care and disability benefits. It also references her support for the Bush-era tax cuts for wealthy Americans, which the ad says gives her a "$7 million tax cut."
Murphy spokeswoman Taylor Lavender said in a release that this is evidence McMahon is a "job killer."
Hawaii: Mazie Hirono
Hirono is the Democratic nominee for the seat vacated by Senator, who was the first U.S. Senator elected who is of Hawaiian native-born ancestry. Akaka served three terms in the Senate and is retiring.
Hirono was elected lieutenant governor of Hawaii in 2002 and currently is a representative from Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District serving since 2007. She considers herself a non-practicing Buddhist and is cited together with(D-Georgia) as the first Buddhist to serve in Congress.
In 2008 Hirono won re-election to a second term with 76 percent of the vote. She outperformed then-presidential candidate Barack Obama, a native of Honolulu, by three points.
Her popularity is consistent among her constituency and is evident by her re-election in 2010 to a third term with 72 percent of the vote, and earned an endorsement from Democracy for America (DFA). The organization is a progressive political action committee founded by former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean in 2004. The DFA campaigns on a variety of public policy issues, involves activists, and provides funding to candidates that embody their ideals.
Nebraska: Bob Kerrey
Kerrey is seeking to regain the Senate seat he held from 1989 to 2001 and to replace the retiring Democrat Ben Nelson. His Republican opponent is Deb Fischer, who is a member of the Nebraska legislature. Fischer has been criticized by environmentalists because her family leases federal land for less than the market rate on private land. Those against federal grazing leases argue that her family should give up the permit for her to remain “morally consistent” with her party’s message of less government.
As a senator representing one of the most conservative states in the union, Kerrey took a liberal position on legislation, voting with only 14 senators against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, which was years in advance of the cultural shift to the left in favor of marriage equality. His economic record is mixed but generally liberal. A former Medal of Honor recipient as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam, Kerrey’s record on foreign policy is aggressive, and he was a member of the New Democratic Coalition, a Congressional Member Organization comprised of Democrats whose agenda is moderate and pro-growth.
North Dakota: Heidi Heitkamp
"I will put North Dakota's priorities first, and that means standing up for our farmers and ranchers and standing against one-size-fits-all rules from Washington that would put thousands of jobs in our energy industry at risk. I'll put the politics aside and work with both parties to build the Keystone Pipeline, which will create jobs while also contributing to our energy independence, and I'll support a balanced budget amendment that protects Social Security and Medicare,” said the former state attorney general in a recent statement on the Huffington Post.
Heitkamp is a “dream candidate” for Democrats in a conservative-leaning state. She is conservative enough to please the opposition while pulling in the moderates and liberals with her support of Medicare and Social Security solvency. Heitkamp has consistently emphasized during her campaign that she would be independent of Democrats, and she released an ad saying that she "stood up" to former President Bill Clinton regarding land issues while she was state attorney general in the 1990s. Heitkamp has also been a vocal supporter of Obama's health-care reform law, for which she has been attacked by Republican candidate Rick Berg.
North Dakota epitomizes the term “toss-up state,” for both candidates are in a neck-and-neck race to the finish in November. Multiple Super PACs are active in the state, with both the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee investing in national ads and the Republican National Committee focusing on assisting Berg’s campaign.
The “leaning” and toss-up states will be the races to watch in the next few weeks as the point spread narrows and the Senate-count predictions in the numerous polls attempt to reveal the winners and losers. Polls, however, are not the best predictors. They are a snapshot in time that is narrow, and one of the best reasons to disregard polls is they cannot predict who will show up to vote. The best way to forecast elections is by political scientists who, according to one of their rank, develop models “to uncover the underlying fundamentals that propel an electorate to vote the way it does, and to combine them in some rigorous, standard fashion based on America’s voting history.”
Avoid "lame duck" syndrome
A president elected to a second term is sometimes seen as being a lame duck from early in the term, because presidents are barred from running again four years later—or in simple terms, finishing what they start. They could also be freer to take political action and be successful with a cooperative Congress moving their party's platform and public policy.
Nonetheless, as the leader of their political party, a president's actions and success in working with Congress affect how the party performs in the midterm elections two years into the second term, and, to some extent, the success of that party's nominee in the next presidential election four years in the future.
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