If my prognostications come to pass, seven races will decide which party controls the Senate. Let’s look at them one by one.
Illinois Republican incumbent Mark Kirk is seeking a second term. He is a moderate and has been sharply critical of Donald Trump. His challenger is Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth. She represents the western suburbs of Chicago and has easily won both of her races for Congress. She was seriously injured in the Iraq War and both legs were amputated. Despite his denouncement of Trump, having him at the top of the ballot will hurt Kirk. He is facing a serious challenger in a blue state. I expect Duckworth to win.
Usually the field is set after the primaries. Two weeks ago everything changed in Indiana. As everyone knows, Pence dropped out of the governor’s race to be Donald Trump’s running mate. Earlier in the week the Democratic Senate nominee also dropped out paving the way for former governor and Senator Evan Bayh. The Bayh name has been political magic in Indiana. His father Birch Bayh was a long time senator whose political career dates back to 1954. Opposing Bayh is Todd Young, a three term congressman. Young is not that well known in the state since he comes from southern Indiana away from the population centers. Indiana is definitely a red state but I believe the Bayh name will give the Democrats another seat.
If the Democrats want to control the Senate, they need to hang on to Harry Reid’s seat. They are pinning their hopes on Catherine Cortez Masto, a former state attorney general. She is facing Congressman Joe Heck. Nevada is a blue state having voted for Obama last time. Heck is currently leading in the polls. If Cortez Masto can generate a large Hispanic turnout, she could win. The experts consider it a tossup. I’ll give it to the Democrats but very easily could be wrong.
New Hampshire will also be a nail biter. Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte is facing Governor Maggie Hassan. It is unusual for a contest to feature two powerhouse candidates. Once again the experts consider it a tossup. Ayotte is a moderate who won overwhelmingly last time. I think the voters will decide to keep her.
The Ohio race looks a lot like New Hampshire. Republican Senator Rob Portman is running for a second term. He served six terms in the House and also had jobs in the executive branch. He had an overwhelming win last time but faces tougher completion, former Governor Ted Strickland. Strickland also served in the House and had one term as governor. He was defeated in 2010 by John Kasich. Portman has a small lead in the polls but it is too early for that to be meaningful. I still give him a slight edge because Strickland has been out of office for six years.
Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania is another Republican who came into office in 2010. He will face off against Katie McGinty. She has been in both the public and private sectors, most recently serving as chief of staff to the governor. Her only election experience was running for governor in 2014. She finished fourth in the Democratic primary. She is leading in the most recent polls. However, I think her lack of political experience will tip the balance in Toomey’s favor.
Wisconsin features a rematch of the 2010 election. Republican Ron Johnson beat three term Senator Russ Feingold. Now they are squaring off again. Feingold has consistently led in the polls and I believe he will retake the seat.
So there you have it. If my predictions come to pass, the Democrats will pick up three seats, leaving them still in the minority. A lot can happen between now and the election so I will periodically update my analysis.