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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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Political Crumbs

Small Club in St. Paul

Mark Dayton is one of just three Minnesotans ever elected to three different statewide offices. Dayton, of course, had previously served as State Auditor (1991-1995) and U.S. Senator (2001-2007) before winning the governorship in 2010. At that time, he joined Republicans Edward Thye and J.A.A. Burnquist on this very short list. Burnquist was elected lieutenant governor in 1914 but then became governor after the death of Democrat Winfield Hammond in 1915. He then won the gubernatorial elections of 1916 and 1918 and eight terms as attorney general two decades later (1939-1955). Thye was similarly first elected lieutenant governor of the Gopher State and became governor after the resignation of fellow GOPer Harold Stasson in 1943. Thye won one additional full term as governor in 1944 and then two terms to the U.S. Senate (1947-1959). Twenty Minnesotans have been elected to two different statewide offices.


Respect Your Elders?

With retirement announcements this year by veteran U.S. Representatives such as 30-term Democrat John Dingell of Michigan, 20-term Democrat George Miller of California, and 18-term Republican Tom Petri of Wisconsin, it is no surprise that retirees from the 113th Congress are one of the most experienced cohorts in recent decades. Overall, these 24 exiting members of the House have served an average of 11.0 terms - the second longest tenure among retirees across the last 18 cycles since 1980. Only the U.S. Representatives retiring in 2006 had more experience, averaging 11.9 terms. (In that cycle, 10 of the 11 retiring members served at least 10 terms, with GOPer Bill Jenkins of Tennessee the lone exception at just five). Even without the aforementioned Dingell, the average length of service in the chamber of the remaining 23 retirees in 2014 is 10.2 terms - which would still be the third highest since 1980 behind the 2006 and 2012 (10.5 terms) cycles.


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