Midterm Preview: The Senate

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Tuesday, November 6th is election day for America, the first major set of elections since President Donald Trump and the Republican party’s surprise surge two years ago. The Freedom Frog has put together a Senate preview for the big occasion. There is a lot at stake for each party, so let’s get into it.

Republicans currently hold a 51-49 advantage (including two independent seats) in the upper house. Of the 35 seats up for election this time around, 26 belong to the Democrats. This is a sizable advantage for the Republicans, as the Dems need to gain two seats on top of holding the 26 seats that are up for election to gain control of the Senate. The Republicans are at risk of losing seats in Nevada, Arizona and Texas, as all three races are considered toss-ups according to our forecasters here at the Freedom Frog. Incumbent Dean Heller (R-NV) only has a one point lead over first term representative Jacky Rosen in the most recent Harris poll from over the weekend. Rosen has continually emphasized her support for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) during her campaign and has been critical on Heller’s vote to repeal in 2017. Trump held a rally late last week campaigning for Heller where the current president said of Heller, “Ever since I won the election, he’s been there for us.” Trump was not able to carry Nevada en route to his 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Jeff Flake (R-AZ) will not be seeking re-election this Tuesday, as representative Martha McSally will be running for the Republican party against Democrat and fellow rep. Kyrsten Sinema. The most recent Harris poll gives McSally a two point lead, but the more heavily weighted Trafalgar Group poll gives Sinema a three point lead with 50 percent of those polled siding with Sinema. McSally did not endorse Trump in the 2016 cycle despite his victory in the state. Sinema, on the other hand, has also tried to distance herself from party leaders. Over the summer Sinema said she would vote against Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) if elected. She’s quoted, “The Democratic leadership has failed Democrats across the country.”

In the Freedom Frog’s home state of Texas incumbent Ted Cruz (R-TX) is in a surprisingly close race with Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX). Cruz is coming off a strong October where he has gained little but critical distance over ‘Beto’, who’s past has not been friendly to him. Beto O’Rourke was involved in a DWI early in his career. Reports of the incident state that ‘Beto’ was doing 75 mph in a 65 when he lost control and hit a truck, one witness told police that ‘Beto’ had tried to drive away from the scene. Emerson College and Quinnipiac University have Cruz leading by three and five points respectively in their most recent reports.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (left) and U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, at their first debate, in Dallas, on Sept. 21, 2018. Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson for The Texas Tribune

Democrats are also at risk of losing seats in North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana and Florida. Republican Kevin Cramer is up double digits in some polls over incumbent Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND). The other three races are much closer. In Missouri Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is running against Republican state attorney general, Josh Hawley. Hawley has been endorsed by President Donald Trump as well as Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, but has also been criticized by each party for running for Senate only a year after being sworn in as state attorney general. Claire McCaskill has been battling criticisms of her own as well. Last spring McCaskill tweeted that she had “No call or meeting w/Russian ambassador. Ever.” Since then though some of her previous tweets have serviced, contradicting her post from March. They read, “Off to meeting w/Russian Ambassador.” and, “Today calls with British, Russian, and German Ambassadors”. This race is neck and neck, as Harrison and the Remington Research Group have the race tied in their latest projections.

In Indiana incumbent Joe Donnelly (D-IN) is running against Republican representative Mike Braun. Indiana has been looked at as one of the best opportunities for the GOP to pick up a Senate seat. Joe Donnelly is considered a moderate Democrat in the state that President Donald Trump won by a wide margin in 2016. Braun like Trump has emphasized his ‘business background’ during his campaign. Braun has been a vocal supporter of the President and his policies and won the Republican primary by over 57 thousand votes. Despite this, Joe Donnelly is still considered a slight favorite heading into Tuesday, with Harris giving the Senator a one-point lead after previously calling it a virtual tie last week.

Florida is a senate race featuring two party heavyweights. Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson (D-FL) is running against Florida Governor Rick Scott. This race has seen millions of dollars poured into it from both parties. Last August Nelson claimed that Russian operatives were interfering with Florida’s Senate election, stating that more detailed information was “classified.” Major publications have since tried to find evidence supporting this but to no avail. The Washington Post rose doubt to the claims and whether or not the classified information even exists, along with other inaccuracies. Rick Scott has been criticized for distancing himself from the Trump administration this time around, with the Tampa Bay Times accusing the Governor of backtracking on his relationship with the President. The winner will represent Florida in the Senate alongside former presidential candidate Marco Rubio (R-FL). Harris is projecting Governor Scott as a two-point favorite, but the more heavily weighted St, Pete Polls have Scott as a slightly closer one point favorite.

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