The Battle For the Senate in 2016: August News

With most states now having completed the primary process, opponents have been chosen in the Senate races in those states.  This is a review of happenings on the Senatorial front in August accompanied by a ratings chart at the end.  Without further ado:


Six years ago, Lisa Murkowski lost her primary bid for the GOP to Tea Partier Joe Miller and ran as a write-in candidate in the general election and won.  Technically, she is an independent.  This year, she easily defeated her Republican opponents in the primary and will face Ray Metcalfe on the Democratic side.


In what should be a barn burner of a general election race, John McCain will take on Ann Kirkpatrick.  McCain survived his primary election rather handily in a race punctuated by accusations that McCain was too old and possibly senile to be reelected.  Although polls show McCain winning a close race in November, this will be the closest call for McCain and possibly his last campaign of his career.  With Arizona now a toss-up Presidential state thanks to Trump, anything is possible in November.  Current poll average:  McCain 43 to Kirkpatrick 38.4 (GOP +4.6)


Perhaps the best news is that the RSCC has stated that they will invest in Republican candidate Daryl Glenn in his bid to oust Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet.  Other than Nevada, this is a possible GOP pick-up state in the Senate since Bennet is not really that popular according to some polls.  Of course, the RSCC has not said how much they will invest and as of this writing they have yet to reserve any airtime in the fall.  Current poll average:  Bennet 51 to Glenn 37.3 (Dem +13.7)


The race here will come down to incumbent Marco Rubio, whose decision to seek reelection at the last minute cleared the GOP field of all except wealthy businessman Carlos Beruff who pumped millions into a losing cause.  On the Democratic side, there was a competitive primary between Alan Grayson and Scott Murphy until allegations surfaced against Grayson of domestic violence.  This too will be a close race between Rubio and Murphy come November.  Current poll average:  Rubio 45.8 to Murphy 41.3 (GOP +4.5)


In the race to succeed the retiring Republican Dan Coats, things made a turn for the worse for the GOP when Democrat Baron Hill withdrew and the Indiana Democratic Party named former Senator Evan Bayh as their candidate.  Republican Todd Young was crushing Hill in polling and fundraising, the latter being the reason for Hill’s withdrawal.  But, recent attacks against Bayh basically portraying him as a carpetbagger (he has spent most of his days in Washington after retirement, not Indiana) have put Bayh on the defensive.  If the GOP is going to retain the Senate, this is an important seat to keep.  Current poll average: inconclusive due to lack of data.


Former Governor Mike Foster endorsed state treasurer John Kennedy.  Foster left office in 2004 so one is not sure how much weight the endorsement holds.  Louisiana’s “primary” is actually Election Day and in a crowded field, it is doubtful anyone will pull 50% of the vote forcing the race into a runoff in early December.


Both incumbent Republican Roy Blunt and Democrat Jason Kander easily won their primary bids in August.  Kander is trying to portray Blunt as a stooge of Trump while Blunt is attacking Kander’s tenure as state secretary of state.  Current poll average: Blunt 45.8 to Kander 39.2 (GOP +6.6)


There is sparse polling out of Nevada, but in the race to succeed Harry Reid, Republican Joe Heck leads Democratic opponent Catherine Cortez Masto with a ton of undecideds.  If there is a silver lining here, it is the soft minimal support for Clinton at the top of the ticket.  Still, this is a difficult one and will go down to the wire.  Both candidates are thus far running a gaffe-free campaign.  Current poll average: Heck 42.4 to Cortez-Masto 39.6 (GOP +2.8)


Indications were that that Republican incumbent Rob Portman was staring possible defeat against former Governor Ted Strickland.  But after some ill-advised statements by Strickland made headlines where he joked about the death of Justice Scalia, Portman has gone on the offensive and opened a gap on his opponent.  The RSCC believes this race is safer now and has pulled some money out of the race-  BAD IDEA!  However, the DSCC and the Democratic Senate Majority PAC have pulled funding in support of Strickland amid worsening poll numbers.  Current poll average:  Portman 43.2 to Strickland 39.9 (GOP +3.3)


The recent polling out of Pennsylvania shows Clinton maintaining her lead over Trump and an almost dead heat in the Senatorial race between Republican incumbent Pat Toomey and Democratic challenger Kate McGinty.  Advertisements have hit the airwaves with Toomey highlighting bipartisanship (including a powerful ad with the daughter of the deceased principal of Sandy Hook Elementary endorsing Toomey) and national security while McGinty is stressing women’s issues and Toomey’s “A” rating from the NRA.  Current poll average:  Toomey 44.3 to McGinty 41.2 (GOP +3.1)


Ron Johnson, the GOP incumbent, was unopposed in his primary and Democrat Russ Feingold faced token opposition.  Johnson defeated Feingold in 2010 in a relatively close race in a GOP wave year.  Polling does not look good for Johnson going into the general election.  But, voting patterns in Wisconsin are quirky and although Johnson has not led in any poll going back 9 months, some are close and some are blowouts.  My guess is that come November, the race may be closer than polls currently predict.  Current poll average:  Feingold 49.2 to Johnson 40.7  (Dem +8.5)

Unless things change, given the amount of defense the GOP has to play and with a generally weak candidate at the top of the ticket- especially in swing states- the following ratings chart suggests that at best the GOP can expect a 51-49 advantage in the Senate and, at worst, a 6-7 seat loss.

R. Shelby- AL C. Grassley- IA J. McCain- AZ M. Kirk- IL
L. Murkowski- AK R. Blunt- MO M. Rubio- FL (D. Coats-IN) OPEN
J. Boozman- AR R. Burr-NC R. Portman- OH K. Ayotte- NH
J. Isaakson- GA P. Toomey- PA R. Johnson- WI
M. Crapo- ID
J. Moran- KS
R. Paul- KY
(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. Schatz- HI
(B. Mikulski-MD) OPEN
C. Schumer- NY
P. Leahy- VT
P. Murray- WA