With about a week to go until the midterm election, Republicans stand to make gains in the House and generally hold the line in governorships. The battle for the Senate has been the locus of attention for most people engaged in the campaign.
Most pundits and poll-watchers now favor Republicans to take control. Democrats have a modest edge in the upper chamber (55 Democratic-aligned seats to 45 Republican seats), but the vast playing field for the GOP combined with President Obama’s unpopularity have given Republicans their best shot at controlling the Senate in a decade. Still, there is a wrinkle: Republican missteps in crucial, must-win states give Democrats some hope that they can hang on to a narrow majority.
Let’s run down the major states by the time we should expect the first results on Election Day. First off is Georgia, whose polls close at 7 p.m. In a year like this, the race should be an easy victory for the Republican party. After a hard-fought primary, the GOP landed on a seemingly good candidate in businessman David Perdue. Yet his campaign against Michelle Nunn has been lackluster, and now Nunn has gone on the attack for comments Perdue has made about “outsourcing.” The Republicans have had to pump money into this race late, and polls show a jump ball. Good news for Republicans: If no candidate gets a clear majority, the race heads to a January runoff. That looks like the most likely outcome—Libertarian Amanda Swafford, polling at just 4 percent, is the spoiler—though it should never have gotten to this point.
The polls in Virginia also close at 7 p.m. Mark Warner has held a comfortable lead throughout the cycle, but recent news regarding his role in the so-called Puckett scandal—whether Warner tried to get a job for the daughter of a critical state senator—has cast some doubt. Warner has worked hard to maintain a sterling reputation throughout the state, so Republican Ed Gillespie remains a massive underdog. Still, a “perfect storm” just might produce the upset.
Closing at the same time statewide is Kentucky. Both sides have fought hard for this state, but it looks like Republican Mitch McConnell will pull out the victory. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has sent mixed signals about its commitment to this race, and Alison Lundergan Grimes has been inartful in distancing herself from President Obama.
At 7:30 p.m., the polls in West Virginia close. This should be an easy pickup for Republican Shelley Moore Capito, set to succeed retiring Democrat Jay Rockefeller. West Virginia does not interest liberal pundits and journalists nearly as much as North Carolina, but the Mountain State has just as many Senate seats, and its shift rightward continues apace.
Then there are the two GOP “stretch” seats. North Carolina’s polls close at 7:30 p.m. while New Hampshire’s hours vary by precinct. A win in either state would signal a big Republican wave. North Carolina, like Georgia, should have been an easy win, but the Republican nominee, state house speaker Thom Tillis, has been under fire for his tenure in the legislature. Late-breaking attacks on Democrat Kay Hagan—for missing key committee hearings and her family’s acquisition of stimulus money—seem to have shaken the race up a bit. As of this writing, Hagan still has about a 2-point lead, down from 4 or 5 a month ago. She is still favored, but a big GOP wave could even sweep a bad candidate like Tillis into the Senate.
In New Hampshire, former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown was written off as a longshot, but he has continuously closed the gap with incumbent Jeanne Shaheen. Now, he trails by less than 3 points. There are not many undecideds left, and New Hampshire has been a tough state for Republicans over the last 15 years. Still, an upset is possible.
The polls in Arkansas close at 8:30 p.m., and here Republicans can look forward to Tom Cotton defeating Democrat Mark Pryor. Cotton has led consistently in the polls as Pryor has struggled to articulate a coherent case for his reelection. Most pundits are now publicly putting this race in the GOP’s column, and indeed many of them have been doing so privately for some time.
Next up is Louisiana, whose polls close at 9 p.m. on the East Coast. Democrat Mary Landrieu shows a slight lead in the close race. But Louisiana, like Georgia, has a runoff, which will almost certainly occur because a Tea Party conservative appears set to siphon just enough of leading Republican Bill Cassidy’s vote. So the real action here will be on December 6; then, Cassidy will be favored.