Senate Control a Toss Up

Both Republicans and Democrats are throwing boat loads of coin at the races that will determine which party runs the Senate after November, yet at this point, the conventional wisdom is the outcome remains a virtual toss up.

“There are probably five states where there’s a statistical tie right now,” said Rob Portman, vice chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “Many of them are right on the knife’s edge.” Ty Matsdorf, the campaigns and communications director at Senate Majority PAC, the biggest outside Democratic group, said, “You have six races that you could conceivably call a coin flip.”

Democrats continue to believe that throwing Barack Obama under the bus is their only chance at winning. The question is, can they get far enough away from the scene of the accident before November. As a top Democrat strategist told Politico, “Given his unpopularity today, we can win. If Obama becomes more unpopular, then we can’t win. “That’s what we think about.”

Sources say Republicans assume that an ambitious Democratic turnout initiative will give the party a potentially significant 1- or 2-percentage point boost in some key states. Both parties’ turnout operations could be critical because the avalanche of TV ads is fueling concern that voters will simply tune them out. One recent GOP focus group in North Carolina showed voters are disgusted by incessant negativity on the airwaves.

Toss up, or not, Democrats continue to head up the list of most vulnerable candidates as we move out of Summer and into the Fall. And this new item out from Politico doesn’t change that analysis at all.

Control of the Senate will be decided in the South. Taking for granted that Republicans will pick up open seats in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia, they need three more to get to 51. The most vulnerable Democratic incumbents are in Louisiana, Arkansas and North Carolina.

The truest toss-up today is Iowa. Republican Joni Ernst is on track to raise more than $3 million in the third quarter, sources tell POLITICO, a reflection of how much hope conservative donors are putting in her. Democrat Bruce Braley replaced his admaker and pollster in a summer shake-up, and his allies have outspent the right the past few weeks — driving up Ernst’s negatives.

The next most vulnerable incumbents are Alaska’s Begich and Colorado’s Mark Udall.


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