Midterm Rankings: The 7 Senate seats most likely to flip
(The Hill) – A little more than two weeks stand between now and Election Day, and it’s likely going to come down to the wire as Republicans and Democrats duke it out for Senate supremacy.
The two sides are fresh off of third-quarter fundraising releases and squarely in the middle of debate season, with Republicans starting to feel that the economic tide has turned in their favor at exactly the right moment.
On the Democratic side, abortion remains the hallmark issue that candidates are messaging on far and wide in order to help keep control of the upper chamber.
Here’s a look at the seven Senate seats most likely to flip next month:
The race between Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) and Mehmet Oz was considered a prime opportunity for Democrats to gain a seat in the Senate but has now become a true toss-up. (Associated Press)
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s (D) campaign has long been considered the best pickup opportunity for Democrats, especially over the summer after Mehmet Oz limped out of a taxing primary. While Democrats still view him as their best shot to flip a seat, the dynamics of the race have changed substantially since mid-August as Oz, with the help of GOP outside groups, has made this a true toss-up contest with more than two weeks to go.
Attacks targeting Fetterman’s record on crime and personal background have vaulted Oz into a race that political operatives on both sides believe will go down to the wire. A new Fox 29-Insider Advantage poll showed the two candidates tied at 46% — marking Oz’s best showing in a general election survey.
A central question throughout the race has concerned Fetterman’s health following the stroke he suffered days before the primary in May. On Wednesday, a doctor who examined Fetterman declared that he is in good health and “has no work restrictions” in the final weeks. All eyes will still be on Fetterman on Tuesday when he and Oz take part in the first and only debate of the campaign.
“The question is: Are answers to the questions the voters have about the economy good enough to carry us?” said T.J. Rooney, a Pennsylvania-based Democratic strategist who previously ran the state’s Democratic Party. “There’s light at the end of the tunnel, and that’s exciting.”
According to three October surveys, the margin in the race between Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R) has not been more than 2 points. (Associated Press)
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto’s (D) battle with former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R) is coming down to the wire, with the winner set to help determine the future of the Senate majority.
Cortez Masto, a first-term senator, and Laxalt have long been considered the hallmark Senate match-up on the board, and the finish seems to be living up to its billing. According to three surveys released since the start of October, the margin has not been more than 2 points, with Laxalt leading the most recent CBS News-YouGov poll released on Thursday by a single percentage point.
“Everything points to a very close election. It’s all about GOTV, GOTV, GOTV,” said Greg Ferraro, a Nevada-based GOP strategist, using shorthand for “get out the vote.”
“Most Nevada voters are probably decided. It’s a function now of blocking and tackling — ID’ing the voters and getting them out.”
The mechanics of that operation kick into high gear this weekend in one sense, as early voting starts on Saturday and mail-in ballots in the state’s two most populous counties — Washoe (Reno and Carson City) and Clark (Las Vegas) — hit mailboxes in the past week.
On top of the massive money that has flooded the state, top surrogates are appearing in Nevada over the final month of the campaign. Former President Trump appeared recently in northern Nevada, while former President Obama is slated to campaign for Cortez Masto and Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) on Nov. 1 in Las Vegas.
The Georgia Senate race has remained tight despite reports about Herschel Walker paying for a woman’s abortion despite publicly calling for an abortion ban without exceptions. (Greg Nash)
The national mood is trending Republican, but Herschel Walker (R) is testing that thought against Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) in what continues to be among the most contentious and hard-fought campaigns on the map.
The reverberations from reports that Walker paid for an abortion kept up this week as Warnock’s campaign rolled out a new ad titled “Hypocrite,” blasting the former University of Georgia running back over his calls for an abortion ban without exceptions (a position he has since tried to claw back).
“For you, Herschel Walker wants to ban abortion,” the ad’s narrator said before turning to the allegations.
Nevertheless, the race has remained close, with top Republicans deciding to stick it out in support of Walker despite the allegations. They continue to think Walker has a real chance to pull out a victory on Nov. 8, and that could be due in part to the potential margin of victory by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) over Democrat Stacey Abrams. According to the latest RealClearPolitics average, Kemp leads by 5.6 percentage points.
“It’s still tight,” one GOP operative involved in Senate races said. “Is there a Venn diagram where there is 5 to 10% of Kemp voters who vote for Warnock? Five percent I can see. Ten percent seems like it’s pushing it.”
The GOP has hit Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D) with a series of ads undercutting him on crime and a host of other issues, helping to give Sen. Ron Johnson (R) a 3 point lead in the race. (Greg Nash/Associated Press)
Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D) remains in the ballgame in his bid to defeat Sen. Ron Johnson (R), who holds a small lead in the final weeks as he seeks a third term in office.
After trailing in August following the state’s late primary, a barrage of GOP ads aimed at undercutting Barnes on crime and a host of other issues seems to have paid off, as Johnson now holds a nearly 3 percentage point lead over the sitting lieutenant governor.
What should be of concern for Barnes at this point harkens back to 2016. Throughout Johnson’s first reelection campaign, he trailed in every single poll leading up to election day, and he still won. The Wisconsin incumbent has led or tied in every poll taken over the past month, including a recent Marquette Law School poll that showed him leading Barnes by 6 points.
Nevertheless, Democrats like their chances to spring the upset on Nov. 8.
“Incredibly close. … It feels as good as it ever has,” one Democratic strategist told The Hill. “There was a moment in early September when Barnes was ahead and then there was late September when Johnson was ahead. It seems like things are tied and a bit of a jump ball.”
In nearly every poll conducted in the North Carolina race since Labor Day, Rep. Ted Budd (R) has either led or tied Democrat Cheri Beasley. (Associated Press)
In one of the quietest races on the Senate map, Rep. Ted Budd (R) holds a slim but steady lead over Democrat Cheri Beasley in the contest to succeed the retiring Sen. Richard Burr (R)
In survey after survey conducted since Labor Day, Budd has either led or been tied, even though his margin over the Democratic challenger has remained within the margin of error in a number of polls. According to each of the most recent surveys released by the Trafalgar Group and East Carolina University (ECU), the sitting congressman has extended his lead.
“Although it is still competitive, Ted Budd is the favorite to win North Carolina’s U.S. Senate election based on our latest poll numbers,” Peter Francia, director of the ECU Center for Survey Research, said in a statement. The ECU poll showed Budd leading by 6 percentage points.
One of the biggest issues for Rep. Tim Ryan (D) in his race against J.D. Vance is that he has been unable to rake in more than 45 percent in any poll in October. (Greg Nash/Associated Press)
As the old adage has it, close doesn’t count except in horseshoes and hand grenades. That’s the issue facing Rep. Tim Ryan (D) as he continues to trail closely behind Republican J.D. Vance in what has become an increasingly red state in recent years.
According to the latest surveys, Vance holds a 2.5 percentage point lead. However, the biggest problem for Ryan is that he has been unable to rake in more than 45% in any poll this month. The Ohio Democrat tried to land punches against Vance, who won the GOP primary on the back of Trump’s endorsement earlier this year, but it hasn’t helped him make a meaningful dent.
“Tim Ryan is running a great campaign,” a second GOP strategist involved in Senate races told The Hill. “The problem for him is predicated on him trying to convince people he’s a Republican. He’s been a liberal Democrat for 20 years. … The idea that this is a race is just silly.”
Sen. Maggie Hassan’s lead could continue to narrow as economic issues become more and more prominent in voters’ minds. (Associated Press/Greg Nash)
The biggest change on this list from the previous edition is in the Granite State, where Sen. Maggie Hassan (D) remains the favorite over Republican Don Bolduc, but the race could end up closer than some anticipate.
Buoyed by a late primary and the lack of a marquee GOP challenger (see: New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu), Hassan has seen what was expected to be a tough-as-nails general election sail by the wayside. However, if national sentiment has anything to say, Hassan’s lead — which sits at 7 points, according to the latest AARP survey — could narrow as economic issues continue to crop up.
Fuel behind the idea of a possible upset cropped up on Friday as Bolduc’s campaign released an internal poll conducted by a firm run by Tony Fabrezio, former President Trump’s pollster, showing Hassan leading by 2 percentage points (49% to 47%).
“If I’m placing a bet, [Democrats] probably hold on to it, but it’s closer than people think,” said the first GOP operative.
However, cold water was poured on that idea only hours later as the Senate Leadership Fund, which is run by allies of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), canceled $5.6 million in ads in the Granite State, a sign that national Republicans are waving the white flag on the race.
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