The Battle for the Senate in 2016- March News

There was lots of news regarding the United States Senate races in March as polling has heated up, funds are raised, advertisements have started, and people jockey for position.

California:  More polls are showing that the general election will likely be a Democrat-versus-Democrat affair between Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez.  The two closest Republicans- Tom Del Becarro and Duf Sundheim- are way behind.  Another 11% prefer someone else, although that is not specified.  If this comes to pass, Sanchez is, although clearly liberal, considered to the right of Harris.  That may help Sanchez in November as some disaffected GOP voters may lean that way.  Then again, they might just stay home.

Colorado:  We don’t hear much about this race which will pit some GOP challenger against incumbent Michael Bennet on the Democratic side who some believe is vulnerable.  The problem is the GOP in Colorado is finding it hard to recruit someone with some gravitas.  Not waiting, the Judicial Crisis Network is running ads against Bennet over the Garland nomination to succeed Scalia.  Similar ads are airing in Ohio in support of GOP incumbent Rob Portman.

Florida:  Ex-Senator Bob Gramm endorsed Scott Peters in his Democratic primary against Alan Grayson.  This is not surprising as two bigger Democratic fish- Barack Obama and Joe Biden- have waded in and endorsed Peters.  This does signal that Gramm’s daughter, Gwen who currently represents the 2nd District, will not run for Senate.  After the 2nd was redrawn, she finds herself quite vulnerable.  And although organized labor is lining up behind Peters also, Grayson did manage the endorsement of the Communications Workers.

Georgia:  Democrats sound excited about their newest candidate, wealthy businessman Jim Barksdale.  He would face GOP incumbent John Isaakson.  Under Georgia law, if no one gets 50% of the vote in November, it advances to a runoff in December.  In 2008, Republican Saxby Chambliss failed to reach 50%, but trounced his opponent in the runoff.  Working in the GOP’s favor is that Democratic turnout severely drops in runoff elections.  However, with a potentially toxic Republican running for president, that could change and spur greater turnout in November.  And if the Senate hangs in the balance after November and neither Barksdale nor Isaakson reaches 50%, things could real exciting real quick.

Illinois: In what many on the Left are calling shameful, the Human Rights Campaign- which bills itself as the nation’s largest gay rights organization- endorsed Republican incumbent Mark Kirk over Democrat Tammy Duckworth.  This seems strange that according to their own scorecard, Kirk scored a 78 while Duckworth scored a 100.  In fact, a few years ago Kirk scored a 39.  So why are they endorsing Kirk?  The rumor is that they want to maintain their bipartisan credibility which would keep the spigots open to corporate donations and those from gay Republicans.

Iowa:  The Democrats believe they scored a coup by recruiting ex-Lt. Governor Patty Judge to run against Chuck Grassley.  However, she will first have to get by three opponents in the Democratic primary.  With state senator Rob Hogg getting the endorsement of 63 of 68 Democratic legislators in Iowa, things may have gotten tougher for Judge.

Maryland:  Chris Van Hollen recently got a boost when the National Association of Realtors started airing ads on his behalf in the Baltimore area.  Van Hollen is trailing fellow Democrat Barbara Edwards in the polls for the primary.  Van Hollen earlier tried to get Edwards to swear off outside help, but now he seems content to take it from the NAR.

Nevada:   A recent poll in a hypothetical general election race to replace Harry Reid in the Senate shows Republican Joe Heck with a one point lead over Democratic attorney general Catherine Cortez Masto with many undecided voters.

New Hampshire:  In what is an example of things to come, the Senate Majority PAC (a Democratic outfit) is running commercials linking Kelly Ayotte- the Republican incumbent- to Donald Trump and her opposition to replacing Justice Antonin Scalia.  Expect many advertisements like this from the Democrats as these races heat up in battleground states.

Two groups have stepped up to help Ayotte here- the Judicial Crisis Network and One Nation.  The former is focusing on support of Ayotte regarding her stance on the Scalia replacement.  The latter is a Karl Rove affiliated organization.

North Carolina:  A recent poll by Survey USA for High Point University shows incumbent Republican with a 48-41 lead against likely Democratic opponent Deborah Ross.  That was before the March 15th primary.  A PPP poll conducted after the primary shows Burr up 40-35 with a favorability rating of 32%.

Ohio: Although Democratic challenger Ted Strickland is not keeping pace with GOP incumbent Rob Portman in the money race, he is in the polls.  A recent poll by PPP gives him a 41-40 lead over Portman.  Additionally, Portman’s favorability rating stands at 35% which is where Strickland also stands.  First Strickland must get by P.G. Sittenfeld in the primary, but that same PPP poll shows him having no problem in that area.

Pennsylvania: Harper Polling is out some results for the Democratic primary showing 2010 candidate leading Katie McGinty, the favorite of national Democrats, 33-17 in their primary.  The winner will take on GOP incumbent Pat Toomey.  In general election match ups, Toomey leads Sestak by 6 points and McGinty by 8 points.  Although the last reliable poll was in September 2015, the most recent poll shows the race tightening somewhat, but still leaning towards a Toomey victory.

Another poll by Franklin and Marshall showed Sestak opening up a substantial lead over McGinty in the Democratic primary.  That likely prompted SEIU to start running ads in the Pittsburgh area.  This poll did not look at how Sestak would fare against Toomey.  However, it does show Hillary Clinton with a 13 point leader over Trump.  That could be trouble for Toomey if there is a coat tail effect.

Wisconsin:  Some good news for incumbent Republican Ron Johnson: he received the endorsement of the Chamber of Commerce, although they would not commit to any financial backing.  Instead, Americans for Prosperity of the Club for Growth might step in.  And the most recent poll from the reputable Marquette University shows Feingold up by only five points over Johnson.

NOTE: If a race is not listed here, chances are there was no news for that race in the past month.

Senate race ratings.  Rob Portman in Ohio moved from “Keep an Eye On” to “toss up” Category:

R. Shelby- AL J. McCain- AZ (M. Rubio- FL) OPEN M. Kirk- IL
L. Murkowski- AK (D. Coats- IN)- OPEN K. Ayotte- NH R. Johnson- WI
J. Boozman- AR R. Paul- KY R. Portman- OH
J. Isaakson- GA R. Burr-NC
M. Crapo- ID P. Toomey- PA
C. Grassley- IA
J. Moran- KS
(D. Vitter- LA) OPEN
J. Hoeven- ND
J. Lankford- OK
T. Scott- SC
J. Thune- SD
M. Lee- UT
(B. Boxer- CA)- OPEN M. Bennet- CO (H. Reid- NV)- OPEN
R. Blumenthal-CT (B. Mikulski-MD) OPEN
B. Schatz- HI
C. Schumer- NY
P. Leahy- VT
P. Murray- WA