This election cycle will be an exciting one for viewers all across the political spectrum. Naturally, the presidential race will take the majority of the spotlight, but the race to control the Senate could be equally competitive. Specifically, four races stand out and will probably determine who will be the Senate majority leader in 2013.
Ohio. Before I offer my thoughts on this race, I should clarify that I do have a slight bias in selecting this race, as I am a proud Ohioan — but even an objective commentator would argue that this is certainly a race to watch. The race will pit freshmen Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown against Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel. Brown has consistently polled slightly better than Mandel, but Ohio’s reputation for being the ultimate swing state in presidential elections will no doubt have consequences for rest of the ticket. If President Barack Obama and the GOP nominee poll close to one another, then this race will be extremely competitive. My prediction: Slight Democratic advantage (due to incumbency).
Massachusetts. Senator Scott Brown represents a rare breed: a moderate New England Republican, a species declared all but dead by most of the commentators after the 2008 election. But Brown roared onto the national scene by declaring Ted Kennedy’s old Senate seat to be the “people’s seat” — and that obviously resonated with voters from the Commonwealth, sending him to the Senate. This time around, Brown is facing a much more skilled Democratic opponent, consumer activist and academic Elizabeth Warren. Although a political novice, Elizabeth Warren has proven to be an able fundraiser and political organizer. Even though Massachusetts is a very liberal state, polling has shown this race to be fairly close. Warren certainly has the advantage of campaigning as a Democrat in a state like Massachusetts, but knocking off an incumbent senator is never easy, and Brown’s political moderation does appeal to many voters. My prediction: Slight Democratic advantage.
Montana. Big Sky Country generally does not come to mind as a competitive electoral state. But the Montana Senate race might turn out to be the most competitive one this election cycle. Freshmen Democratic Senator Jon Tester is very vulnerable in a western state that traditionally votes for Republicans for president. Tester is generally considered a political moderate and, as a western Democrat who is both a farmer and a strong Second Amendment proponent, he could be a key national figure for the Democratic Party in future elections. His Republican opponent, Denny Rehberg, has an advantage most congressmen don’t have when they challenge senators. As Montana’s seasoned at-large congressman, Rehberg has a lot of experience running a statewide campaign. Plus, if the GOP candidate does very well in Montana, his coattails will only help Rehberg. My prediction: Slight Republican advantage.
Virginia. The Old Dominion State will have two veterans of the Virginia political scene battle for retiring Senator Jim Webb’s seat. Former Senator George Allen will face former DNC Chairman Tim Kaine. Both Kaine and Allen were popular governors of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and Allen was a popular senator until a racially insensitive remark he made at rally went viral and destroyed his 2006 re-election bid. In 2008, Obama became only the second Democrat since Lyndon Johnson in 1964 to take Virginia, and I expect this state will once again be a key battleground state. Both Senate candidates are very well connected, so this could very well be the most expensive Senate race this cycle. Given how close the presidential race will be, the high name recognition of both candidates and the money both men will bring, this race will be extremely close. My prediction: Dead even.
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