Friday, September 22, 2006

More Updates on Hot Senate Races

We took a brief look yesterday at some of this year's most hotly-contested U.S. Senate races and today we'll examine a bunch more.

New Jersey: Robert Menendez (D), Tom Kean Jr. (R)

Latest Polls:
  • Quinnipiac September 20, 2006: Menendez 45% Kean 48%
  • Strategic Vision September 14, 2006: Menendez 40% Kean 44%
  • Zogby Interactive September 11, 2006: Menendez 40.4% Kean 40.2% average of last five polls: Menendez 41% Tom Kean Jr. 44%

Comments: This is getting way too close for comfort, despite my thinking that whatever slim lead Kean has is based solely on confusion among dumb Republican voters who think the elder, well-known Kean is running and not his vacuous son. The Menendez camp needs to make some major strides in the next few weeks, as the national GOP is seeing this as their best chance to snatch a Democratic seat and it's only a matter of time before the big swift-boat money starts coming into play in the Garden State. Menendez has $5 million more than Kean in his campaign warchest and he needs to start using it now, not in late October.

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Maryland: Ben Cardin (D), Michael Steele (R)

Latest Polls:
  • SurveyUSA September 20, 2006: Cardin 47% Steele 48%
  • Rasmussen September 13, 2006: Cardin 50% Steele 43%
  • Zogby/WSJ September 5, 2006: Cardin 49% Steele 40% average of last five polls: Cardin 48% Steele 42%

Comments: There's been a debate in the Progressive blog world over how good Steele's quirky television ads are and I'm one of the people who thinks they are not only effective, but they're partially responsible for his surge in the polls. This may not end up being as close as it looks right now -- this is true-blue Maryland, after all -- but Democratic nominee Ben Cardin needs to get his primary foe Kweisi Mfume into a back room and beg for some very visible support in the black community. Maryland's voter base is almost one-quarter African-American and the charismatic and respected Mfume may be just what Cardin needs to keep Steele from being this competitive.

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Missouri: Claire McCaskill (D), Jim Talent (R)

Latest Polls:
  • Rasmussen September 15, 2006: McCaskill 45% Talent 42%
  • SurveyUSA September 14, 2006: McCaskill 48% Talent 47%
  • Zogby/WSJ September 11, 2006: McCaskill 45% Talent 48.9% average of last five polls: McCaskill 46% Talent 47%

Comments: This is going to be one of the down-to-the-wire races and could go either way at this point. Talent is your standard-issue, rubber-stamping Republican, but hasn’t managed to do anything overt to anger Missouri voters -- except side with Bush on the stem-cell research veto, while the majority of voters support that science. Missouri also has a stem-cell initiative on the ballot this fall, which should help McCaskill. This race is totally deadlocked but Talent has a ton more money than McCaskill, which means the Democratic nominee could be in trouble when they crank up the television slime machine.

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Montana: Jon Tester (D), Conrad Burns (R)

Latest Polls:
  • Rasmussen September 13, 2006: Tester 52% Burns 43%
  • Gallup September 5, 2006: Tester 48% Burns 45%
  • Rasmussen August 8, 2006: Tester 47% Burns 47% average of last five polls: Tester 48% Burns 44%

Comments: Conrad Burns can't get any positive press to save his life and, between being dogged by constant appearances of being corrupt and his general lackluster performance as a Senator, he is in massive trouble. Every poll has Democrat Jon Tester ahead or in a statistical tie and, despite Burns having way more money for the stretch run, I think Montanans are just flat-out tired of him and Tester will prevail on November 7.

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Ohio: Sherrod Brown (D), Mike DeWine (R)

Latest Polls:
  • SurveyUSA September 21, 2006: Brown 52% DeWine 42%
  • University of Cincinnati September 20, 2006: Brown 51% DeWine 47%
  • Quinnipiac Univ. September 17, 2006: Brown 45% DeWine 44% average of last five polls: Brown 47% DeWine 43%

Comments: This is another one in that handful of races that, seven weeks out, is just practically too close to call. Brown is well known and popular in Ohio, while DeWine is the poster boy for a do-nothing GOP Congress in a year where being a Republican is something you try to hide. The DeWine campaign is also failing miserably in their attempts to paint Brown as some wild-eyed radical, who is out of step with Ohio voters -- Brown still comes out looking like an energetic populist. The economy is a huge issue in the state and Brown needs to hammer DeWine mercilessly about that and how out of touch DeWine is to keep saying the economy is good when Ohio families simply don't feel that way.

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Rhode Island: Sheldon Whitehouse (D), Lincoln Chafee (R)

Latest Polls:
  • ARG September 20, 2006: Whitehouse 45% Chafee 40%
  • Brown University September 8, 2006: Whitehouse 40% Chafee 39%
  • Rasmussen September 17, 2006: Whitehouse 51% Chafee 43% average of last five polls: Whitehouse 44% Chafee 41%

Comments: This is a key chance, along with Tennessee, for Democrats to snag a Republican seat. Sheldon Whitehouse is well-liked by Rhode Island voters and has nearly twice as much money as Chafee for the final month of the campaign. Chafee got no polling bounce whatsoever from his primary victory, still trails Whitehouse in every poll and, with Rhode Island being one of the bluest of the blue states, I like the way this is shaping up heading into October.

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Tennessee: Harold Ford Jr. (D), Bob Corker (R)

Latest Polls:
  • SurveyUSA September 11, 2006: Ford 48% Corker 45%
  • Zogby/WSJ September 11, 2006 : Ford 42.6% Corker 45.3%
  • Rasmussen September 5, 2006 : Ford 44% Corker 45% average of last five polls: Ford 45% Corker 45%

Comments: With the closeness of some of the other races and with Menendez struggling in New Jersey, this has become a critical race for Democrats as they attempt to take the seat being vacated by the retiring Bill Frist. While Ford's television ads are way too conservative for my tastes, they are very well done and Ford is an undeniably engaging presence on TV and in person. It's also important for we Northeast liberals to remember that it's not us Ford is appealing to, but people in a deep-red state and he is clearly doing the right thing, based on how, according to's five-poll average, this race is now deadlocked at 45% to 45%.

This is going to be very close and very exciting and, for once, I'm happy about Ford's membership in the House's Blue-Dog (Conservative Democrat) coalition as it makes it much harder for the Karl Roves of the Republican party to define him as something he's not -- of course, that's never stopped them before.

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Minnesota: Amy Klobuchar (D), Mark Kennedy (R)

Latest Polls:
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune September 17, 2006: Klobuchar 56%
    Kennedy 32%
  • Zogby/WSJ September 11, 2006: Klobuchar 49.1% Kennedy 40.4%
  • Gallup September 5, 2006: Klobuchar 50% Kennedy 40% average of last five polls: Klobuchar 51% Kennedy 39%

Comments: Nobody with the name Kennedy should ever be allowed to serve in Congress as a Republican -- it's not fair, but that's the way it has to be. Amy Klobuchar has been widening the lead she had in every poll during the summer, which is not a good sign for Kennedy coming into the stretch run. It also looks like the national Republican party has all but conceded this race and, without a financial infusion from them, Kennedy has no hope of prevailing.

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Vermont: Bernie Sanders (I), Richard Tarrant (R)

Latest Polls:
  • Garin-Hart-Yang September 17, 2006: Sanders 66% Tarrant 27%
  • ARG September 14, 2006: Sanders 55% Tarrant 40%
  • Rasmussen August 3, 2006: Sanders 62% Tarrant 34% average of last five polls: Sanders 61% Tarrant 33%

Comments: Put this in the bank as an easy victory for Sanders and an effective Democratic seat. Sanders is a liberal, will caucus with the Democrats and retain essentially the same position held by Independent Jim Jeffords after he bolted the Republican party. If you see any poll showing Republican Tarrant even coming close to Sanders, it's not accurate.