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Projections: 2012 U.S. Senate Races

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Early expectations of a Republican takeover of the nation's upper legislative chamber may have lost steam, but close races still abound

wisconsinseal10.pngWith the Democratic caucus defending 23 of the nation's 33 U.S. Senate seats on the ballot Tuesday, including several in red and purple states, Republicans were quite optimistic about their chances of winning back the chamber coming out of the 2010 election.

After damaging gaffes by Republican candidates in Missouri and Indiana, the launching of a popular independent candidacy in Maine, and stronger than expected Democratic campaigns in Wisconsin and North Dakota, the GOP had to inevitably temper expectations.

The end result, however, is that as many as 5 to 10 seats could still change colors - including a handful of true 'toss-up' contests in states like Montana, Virginia, and Wisconsin which have shown exceedingly tight polling for several months.

With Democrats defending open seat races in Virginia and Wisconsin, the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent is Jon Tester in Montana, who has his hands full with Republican U.S. Representative Denny Rehberg.

Tester is also facing a Romney victory at the top of the ticket, however Montana has the richest history among the 50 states in split-ticket voting between presidential and U.S. Senate candidates.

Montanans have sent Democrats to the Senate nine times during 17 presidential election cycles when the GOP presidential nominee carried the state, or 53 percent of the time, including seven of 10 elections since 1952.

The Treasure State is the only one in the nation to boast more split-ticket voting than straight-party voting between these two offices over the past 100 years.

Tester is also hoping a strong performance by Libertarian Dan Cox will pull votes away from Rehberg - just as Stan Jones did during the Democrat's 3,512-vote win over three-term GOP incumbent Conrad Burns in 2006.

But before Montana's returns come in there will be plenty of competitive or notable races to watch in Virginia, Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

And could there be a few upsets among this batch of senate contests? One should not be surprised...

Smart Politics 2012 U.S. Senate Projections

State
Projection
Status
Arizona
Jeff Flake
Republican hold
California
Dianne Feinstein (inc.)
Democratic hold
Connecticut
Chris Murphy
Democratic caucus hold
Delaware
Tom Carper (inc.)
Democratic hold
Florida
Bill Nelson (inc.)
Democratic hold
Hawaii
Mazie Hirono
Democratic hold
Indiana
Joe Donnelly
Democratic pick-up
Maine
Angus King
Independent pick-up
Maryland
Ben Cardin (inc.)
Democratic hold
Massachusetts
Elizabeth Warren
Democratic pick-up
Michigan
Debbie Stabenow (inc.)
Democratic hold
Minnesota
Amy Klobuchar (inc.)
Democratic hold
Mississippi
Roger Wicker (inc.)
Republican hold
Missouri
Claire McCaskill (inc.)
Democratic hold
Montana
Jon Tester (inc.)
Democratic hold
Nebraska
Deb Fischer
Republican pick-up
Nevada
Dean Heller (inc.)
Republican hold
New Jersey
Bob Menendez (inc.)
Democratic hold
New Mexico
Martin Heinrich
Democratic hold
New York
Kirsten Gillibrand (inc.)
Democratic hold
North Dakota
Rick Berg
Republican pick-up
Ohio
Sherrod Brown (inc.)
Democratic hold
Pennsylvania
Bob Casey (inc.)
Democratic hold
Rhode Island
Sheldon Whitehouse (inc.)
Democratic hold
Tennessee
Bob Corker (inc.)
Republican hold
Texas
Ted Cruz
Republican hold
Utah
Orrin Hatch (inc.)
Republican hold
Vermont
Bernie Sanders (inc.)
Independent hold
Virginia
Tim Kaine
Democratic hold
Washington
Maria Cantwell (inc.)
Democratic hold
West Virginia
Joe Manchin (inc.)
Democratic hold
Wisconsin
Tammy Baldwin
Democratic hold
Wyoming
John Barrasso (inc.)
Republican hold
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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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