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The Senate Is Up for Grabs
Almost a dozen races are in play.

Angus King, U.S. Senate candidate from Maine

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John Fund

Here is a rundown of other crucial Senate races based on my conversations with key observers:

Florida. Democratic senator Bill Nelson is pounding Republican congressman Connie Mack and has opened up a lead. But this is a must-win state for Romney, and massive Republican spending in it will give Mack a chance to come from behind.

Nevada. GOP incumbent Dean Heller, who was appointed to the Senate after John Ensign’s resignation, has finally taken a lead over Democratic congresswoman Shelley Berkley. But the race will remain in flux because Senate majority leader Harry Reid is spending a lot of money on it and the Nevada Democrats have a formidable turnout operation.

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Hawaii. Hawaii leans to the left, and any race in a state where Barack Obama is seen as a hometown hero is tough for Republicans, but Democratic congresswoman Mazie Hirono is a plodding candidate. She managed to lose a race for governor in 2002 to Republican Linda Lingle, who is her opponent for the Senate this year. Internal polls show Hirono holding a seven-point, but Lingle has a chance.

Montana. Democratic incumbent Jon Tester is running a personality campaign to overcome the conservative tilt of his state. Republican congressman Denny Rehberg is attempting to tie Tester to Obama. In the latest polls, Rehberg is up by a single point. This race will be close to the end.

New Mexico. In a state where Hispanics are 40 percent of the population, Republicans face tough sledding. Former GOP congresswoman Heather Wilson is down by five points in her internal polling, and by eight points in public polls. She is a clear underdog but could perhaps crawl back.

Ohio. Mitt Romney’s struggles in Ohio have been reflected in the Republican Senate candidate’s poll numbers. Mandel is down four points, but it remains a competitive race. 

Virginia. A new Washington Post poll shows Democrat Tim Kaine with an eight-point lead over Republican George Allen, but the poll’s partisan breakdown may be too heavily skewed towards Democrats. Mitt Romney trails in Virginia, but it’s possible Allen could win even if Republicans lose the state on the presidential level. He has gained traction by arguing that looming defense cuts — imposed by last year’s Budget Control Act — will be devastating for Virginia.

Wisconsin. New polls show that Democrat Tammy Baldwin has opened up a lead over former governor Tommy Thompson, whom she has attacked for his lobbying work in Washington. But Baldwin, currently a representative in the U.S. House, has a voting record that puts her far to the left of most of Wisconsin’s electorate, and she hasn’t yet been hit much on it. Republicans expect to pick up this seat, and Democrats are reluctant to discuss their prospects.

What is clear from reading all of these tea leaves is that there are almost a dozen Senate races in play. It’s entirely possible that many will be close enough to cause recounts or even court battles, potentially leaving control of the Senate up in the air for days or weeks after the election.

— John Fund is national-affairs columnist for NRO and a co-author of the newly released book Who’s Counting? How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk (Encounter Books).



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