A new Monmouth University poll released today shows a closer race in the New Jersey special senate election, with heavily favored Democrat, Newark Mayor Cory Book only 13 percent ahead of conservative Republican, and former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan. Real Clear Politics is showing Booker with a 17.5 percent lead in their average of polls, but the two most recent polls in that average show Booker leading only 12 and 13 percent after he had been leading by more than 30 percent in some polls. This race is getting closer, and although Booker is still favored, Lonegan is showing he could make it a close race.
There are 34 senate seats up for election between special election in New Jersey on October 16 as well as regular elections in 2014. The remaining 66 seats that are not up for election are held by 33 Democrats and two Independents that caucus with the Democrats and 31 Republicans. There are an additional 26 seats, of which 16 are held by Republicans and 10 are held by Democrats, that are considered either safe or leaning for the party currently holding them.
The safe or leaning seats are as follows:
Republicans: Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, both South Carolina seats, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming. In South Dakota, the retirement of Tim Johnson makes that seat a likely Republican gain.
Democrats: Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Virginia.
Adding those seats gives the Democrats 41 seats and the two Independents that caucus with them while the Republicans would have 47 total seats. The remaining nine, covered below, will decide which party will hold a majority in the senate after the 2014 election.
Alaska: Incumbent Senator Mark Begich is running for reelection and could race 2010 nominee Joe Miller appears to be the likely GOP nominee. Begich should be a strong candidate but a united (rather than divided like four years ago with Lisa Murkowski running as a write-in) GOP behind Joe Miller would give him a fair shot at defeating Begich. For now, this one is a toss up.
Arkansas: While this state has turned heavily Republican in the last decade, incumbent Senator Mark Pryor seems to be in good shape for reelection. The GOP nominee is likely to be Rep. Tom Cotton. Cotton has a good chance of winning this seat. Leans Republican.
Colorado: Incumbent Senator Mark Udall is favored for reelection but he is likely to be challenged by Ken Buck, the TEA Party-supported candidate that barely lose to Senator Michael Bennet in 2010. Buck could mount a strong challenge to Udall, but as of now this race leans Democrat.
Iowa: Senator Tom Harkin is retiring, leaving an open race for this seat. Democrats are likely to nominate Rep. Bruce Braley while Republicans will have a wide open primary battle. This seat leans Democrat.
Louisiana: Senator Mary Landrieu faces a very challenging reelection effort in a state that has turned heavily Republican. Republicans appear to have a contested primary between Rep. Bill Cassidy and retired Air Force Colonel Rob Maness. The strong GOP leaning of the state makes this seat a toss up.
Michigan: Incumbent Senator Carl Levin is retiring, leaving Rep. Gary Peters as the likely Democratic nominee to run against the winner of the GOP primary. This seat leans Democrat.
Montana: Senator Max Baucus is retiring. Ex-Governor Brian Schweitzer will not be running for the seat, he has chosen to stay in Montana rather than go to Washington D.C. As of now, this one leans Republican.
North Carolina: Senatior Kay Hagan is one of the most vulnerable incumbents for 2014, but the Republicans have a long list of potential candidates at this point. Given the GOP leaning of the state, this one leans Republican.
New Hampshire: The voters in this state had elected Democratic majorities in both house of the state legislature in 2008 and turned both over to the Republicans in 2010. Democrats made substantial gains in 2012 while President Obama carried the state. While Republicans could make a come-back in 2014 much like they did in 2010, Senator Jeanne Shaheen seems to have sufficient popularity to win reelection. Republicans might nominate former Rep. Frank Guinta, former Rep. Jeb Bradley or may even have former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown move to the state to run for this seat. As of now, this one leans Democrat.
Among those ten seats, as projected above, Democrats would win four of them while Republicans would also win four of them. The remaining two are toss ups, and are too close to project right now. In total, this would leave the senate projected 47 Democrats (including the two Independents that caucus with them), 51 Republicans and two seats listed as toss ups.
The Alaska and Louisiana senate races in 2014 could decide which party controls the senate after the election. If the GOP wins both, they would have a shot at a 53 seat majority. Should a few other races become more competitive, there is a chance of an even larger majority. Remember, at the beginning of 2010, almost no one expect Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold of facing any problems in his reelection bid, but Ron Johnson was a real surprise and defeated Feingold easily. The right kind of candidate Illinois, Minnesota, or New Mexico could surprise us again, not to mention the possibility that Steve Lonegan might well be that candidate in his race against Cory Booker in New Jersey.
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