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Democrats Eye Key Races for Senate Takeover

Democrats Eye Key Races for Senate Takeover
Kelly Ayotte (AP)

By Tuesday, 06 October 2015 09:29 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Ever since the 2014 midterms that cost Democrats the Senate, they have been lusting after the Senate prize.

And the math of the Senate battleground next year presents an opportunity for Democrats to do just that.

Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan has announced her challenge to Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte for New Hampshire, to get the ball rolling.

And it will be very close: The latest Public Policy Polling survey among likely New Hampshire voters statewide showed freshman Ayotte edging Hassan by a mere 44 percent to 43 percent. A recent NBC News/Marist poll showed Ayotte leading Hassan 48 percent to 45 percent.

Should Hassan unseat freshman Sen. Ayotte, that will mean Democrats only need to pick up four more seats from Republicans to seize the Senate majority they lost in ’14 — and just three seats if they retain the presidency and there is a Democratic vice president to cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate.

Former seven-term Rep. Charles Bass, R-N.H., told me hours after Hassan’s announcement, “Gov. Hassan has been planning this a long time. She hasn’t done much to distinguish herself, but she’ll be a decent nominee for the Democrats.”

With 34 of 100 seats in the Senate contested in ’16, 24 are held by Republicans and only 10 are in Democratic hands. Two Republican senators — Marco Rubio of Florida and Dan Coats of Indiana — are not seeking re-election, with a third, David Vitter, is leaving if he is elected governor of Louisiana next month.

Republicans are expected to hold the seats in Indiana and Louisiana, with Rubio’s open seat in Florida up for grabs.

Three Democratic senators are calling it quits: California’s Barbara Boxer and Maryland’s Barbara Mikulski, both of who seats are almost cinches to remain in Democratic hands, and Nevada’s Harry Reid, whose open seat is now heatedly contested by likely Republican nominee and Rep. Joe Hec,k and the certain Democratic nominee, former State Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto.

But when one adds New Hampshire to the five other states in which Republican senators are hard-pressed for re-election by Democratic challengers, the scenario of a Senate with Democrats in control becomes far more realistic.

Illinois: Narrow (48.2 percent) 2010 winner Mark Kirk, still recovering from a devastating stroke he suffered in 2011, insists he is running again. Three recent polls show two-term Rep. and former Obama Administration official Tammy Duckworth, a decorated veteran of the Iraqi conflict, defeating Kirk by margins from 9% to 22% statewide.

Missouri: Once thought invincible, Republican Sen. Roy Blunt now finds himself facing a surprisingly spirited challenge from Democratic Secretary of State and former U.S. Army Intelligence officer Jason Kander.

Show-Me State pundits agree that the perception of Blunt as more a Washingtonian than a Missourian (his wife and two grown sons are Washington lobbyists) is hurting him. A recent Public Policy Policy poll showed Blunt leading Kander by an unimpressive margin of 40 percent to 35 percent.

Ohio: Three years after he was defeated for re-election and at age 71, former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland has emerged as an unusually strong contender against Republican Sen. Rob Portman. The latest Quinnipiac poll showed Strickland leading Portman by a margin of 44 percent to 41 percent statewide.

Former OMB Director Portman, considered one of his party’s brightest stars on tax and fiscal issues, is disliked by some conservatives for becoming the first Republican office-holder anywhere to endorse same-sex marriage.

Pennsylvania: In a state where Democrats hold an edge of one million in registered voters, Republican Sen. and narrow 2010 winner Pat Toomey was always expected to be in a tough re-election battle. But a recent Harper Poll gives him a lead of 47 percent to 37 percent over former Rep. and 2010 Democratic opponent Joe Sestak and 48 percent to 34 percent against Katie McGinty (who resigned as top aide to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf to make the race).

Wisconsin: Six years after he unseated Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold as the tea party and “businessman candidate,” Sen. Ron Johnson is in a desperate situation. Passing on what polls showed was a winnable race for governor in ’14, Feingold now demolished arch-nemesis Johnson by a margin of 50 percent to 38.5% percent, according to the latest Marquette poll.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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Ever since the 2014 midterms that cost Democrats the Senate, they have been lusting after the Senate prize. And the math of the Senate battleground next year presents an opportunity for Democrats to do just that.
senate, ayotte, new hampshire, mcginty
Tuesday, 06 October 2015 09:29 AM
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