My studies of the current U.S. Senate cycle is that Republicans will gain nine seats. North Carolina and Kansas are the tightest. New Hampshire, Colorado, Alaska, Georgia, and maybe Iowa could still change direction in the final hours. Two observations jump out from the present arrangement. First, previous election to a legislative post, whether municipal, state or federal, seems to be a big advantage in a U.S. Senate race. In only one of the below does a candidate who has never been elected to a legislative seat lead someone who has. That is Alaska, although Kansas remains close. In the others where a current or former legislator is opposed by a career non-legislator (Delaware, Idaho, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming) the legislator leads. I didn't include South Dakota because, although the front runner, Gov. Mike Rounds, is a former legislator and his major opponent is not, former U.S. Senator Larry Pressler is running as a major independent. Secretaries of State also seem to lack the ability to move upward as all three (in West Virginia, Michigan, and Kentucky) seem likely to fail this year despite receiving major funding. Also, looking back, decisions made by candidates in both parties could have swung the present arrangement three or more seats in either direction by now. Although many of us dislike what career politicians do once they get to Washington, they do have a superior grasp of how to get elected. If the Democrat incumbents in Montana, West Virginia, and South Dakota had not decided to bail, it is likely at least one of them (South Dakota?) would be a favorite to retain by now. Also, if the establishment GOP had not insisted on saving their moderates, would not Kentucky, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, Alaska, and more be in serious danger? Democrat courage and GOP disarray could have led a much more leftish Senate next year. Conversely, the national Republican vetting process concentrated on targeting perceived vulnerable Dems and finding top notch candidates in opposition. This worked brilliantly in Colorado, Arkansas, and New Hampshire. In Oregon, Virginia, and Michigan they had less luck. However, it now appears the process dismissed such states as Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Minnesota as unwinnable, though now it appears more early money and a fast start could now have had those Dem incumbents on the ropes. The upper limits on GOP seats next term, now 53-54, could well have been 56-57.
Ah, well. So it goes...
Jeff Sessions (R)
Sessions has no opposition, not even third party nor independent. Even if a few clowns write in "Mickey Mouse", this will be a soviet style result.
Sessions (R) to hold by 98.
Mark Begich (D)
Former state Attorney General Dan Sullivan (R) has acquired a steady lead. Incumbent Begich is generally credited with running an exemplary campaign, blasting Obama at every turn. However, Begich is still stuck with his party designation and his vote for Obamacare. Also, Begich made a serious mistake falsely accusing Sullivan, as Attorney General, of releasing dangerous criminals early. If a national GOP sweep is evident and the U.S. Senate has already fallen to the Republicans, the Democrats in this late reporting state might forego turnout. The GOP has united in this very anti-Obama state and the Democrat position is eroding into the close.
Last: Sullivan (R) to take by 2.
Now: Sullivan (R) to take by 3.5.
Mark Pryor (D)
Pryor made an early and strong case for his reelection. His opponent is a freshman U.S. Rep. An outlier early NY Times poll had Pryor up by ten. No matter. The Obama presidency has radicalized Arkansas rightward. Pryor won't suffer the same whipping Blanche Lincoln endured in 2010, but the stars are aligning badly. He has been trailing for two months and is deteriorating going into the finale. He cannot defend his Obamacare vote. Analysts estimate his chances of winning as between 2% and 20%, with the latter number an outlier. This one's about cooked.
Last: Tom Cotton (R) to take by 5.5.
Now: Tom Cotton (R) to take by 7.5.
Mark Udall (D)
U.S. Rep Cory Gardner has flat outcampaigned Udall. Even the liberal Denver Post endorsed the challenger in a scathing review of Udall's stumbles. Also, it was thought Dem Governor John Hickenlooper would provide coattails in an easy reelection, but Hickenlooper is sagging badly recently and is only a coin flip to survive. This popular discontent is spllling onto Udall, plus the nearby illegal immigration crisis has him badly positioned. Analysts, at best, give him a 30% chance to survive, with most estimating half that probability.
Last: Gardner (R) to take by 1.
Now: Gardner (R) to take by 3.5.
Chris Coons (D)
Coons garnered the title of luckiest politician of the decade in 2010 when all his formidable opponents self-immolated in the race to succeed vacating Joe Biden. His present opponent, 2012 U.S. House nominee Kevin Wade, has actually surpassed expectations but never had the money nor horses to make this competitive.
Last: Coons (D) to hold by 25.
Now: Coons (D) to hold by 17.
Michelle Nunn apparently learned a few pointers sitting on her father's knee. She's kept even with Republican businessman David Perdue. She's used the "uncaring millionaire" ploy against him to good effect and overcome missteps of her own regarding campaign organization. Libertarian Amanda Swafford, albeit only polling at 3%, could be a key as this is a runoff state with the November leader needing 50% to avoid a January rematch. Either way, Perdue, who has polled ahead for the last ten days, would seem to have the edge.
Last: Perdue (R) to hold by 5.
Now: Perdue (R) to hold by 2.
Brian Schatz (D)
Schatz, appointed to the seat by the outgoing Governor, fought off a stern challenge from his left to hold the nomination. The seat is not now in danger. Former state rep Chris Cavasso, despite the fact that there will be no top pull, will not come close. Although the Dems may pull off the surprising feat of losing the Governor's mansion for the third time in five terms in this birthplace (?) of Obama, Schatz may well double Cavasso's vote.
Last: Schatz (D) to hold by 26.
Now: Schatz (D) to hold by 31.
Jim Risch (R)
Risch took over for scandal plagued Larry Craig in 2008 and has kept his nose clean and his mouth appropriate. In heavily Republican Idaho, that will be enough. Lawyer/educator/trout fisherman Nels Mitchell, going for the Dems, seems nice enough. He won't produce the first Dem U.S. Senate victory here since 1974.
Last: Risch (R) to hold by 29.5.
Now: Risch (R) to hold by 25.
Dick Durbin (D)
As I suspected earlier, many analysts downgraded this one from "Safe Democrat" to "Likely" over the past few months. However, The Assistant Majority Leader has firmed up his polling against opponent Assemblyman Jim Oberweiss, settling into the low double digit range. Although the state did elect a Republican Senator in 2010, Democrat Governor Pat Quinn has rallied and is no longer a drain on other races.
Last: Durbin (D) to hold by 9.5.
Now: Durbin (D) to hold by 10.5.
Although U.S. Rep Bruce Braley (D) has halted his precipitous tumble against state senator and noted pig farmer Joni Ernst, he seems to have hit a ceiling short of his goal. Ernst maintains slight leads in almost all polls and is seen as having about a 70% chance by the statisticians. With Terry Branstad (R) blowing out the stops in his gubernatorial reelection, and local Dem candidates sagging statewide, Braley has shown no evidence he will produce a strong close.
Last: Ernst (R) to take by 1.5.
Now: Ernst (R) to take by 2.5.
Pat Roberts (R)
Since Kansas hasn't elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since 1932, Roberts can be forgiven for sleepwalking through most of this campaign. After he limped across the finish line in the primary, though, the Democrats cleverly decided to throw their support behind a more centrist independent, Greg Orman. With GOP Governor Sam Brownback's tribulations dragging down the party brand, the national organization has had to airlift in massive aid. It appears at the moment they may have done enough, but Roberts seriously needs a shot of adrenaline.
Last: Roberts (R) to hold by 17.5.
Now: Roberts (D) to hold by 2.
Mitch McConnell (R)
McConnell has kept a steady hand on his reelection effort and has adroitly exploited the small stumbles by his opponent, Secretary of State Alison Grimes. He hasn't trailed in a poll for over a month and most analysts agree he is a heavy favorite to win. His home state is hardly giving this potential Majority Leader a ringing endorsement and he may find his authority eclipsed by his junior partner, the far more popular potential presidential candidate Rand Paul, when it comes to setting an agenda in the next Congress.
Last: McConnell (R) to hold by 4.
Now: McConnell (R) to hold by 4.5.
Mary Landrieu (D)
The arithmetic didn't work for Mary Landrieu, even before her recent gaffe equating her constituents with racists and sexists. In her previous three runs she never had to staunch a hard Republican tide. Her loyalty to Obama has turned into a poison pill. Although she may lead the vote on Tuesday, unless she garners 50% she will have to stand in a December runoff. Since her opponents are all GOP, they are expected to coalesce for that effort. As she presently stands, she may not even lead the preliminary vote. That would likely doom her.
Last: Landrieu (D) to lead general election by 8.
Cassidy (R) to take runoff by 3.
Now: Landrieu (D) to lead general election by 5.
Cassidy (R) to take runoff by 3.5.
Susan Collins (R)
Oh, a legitimate New England Rockefeller Republican. Wisely, she's staying out of the three way brawl which is Tea Party Governor Paul LePage's reelection race. State ACLU Director Shenna Bellows (D) wouldn't be competitve even if this weren't a GOP year. Collins' junior colleague, Independent Angus King, currently caucuses with the Dems. Since King has long enunciated it is important to him to be part of the majority, and he has always displayed a high regard for Collins, it will be interesting to see if she engages him with an offer to cross the aisle if the GOP does reach 51 seats. Bellows has cut the margin a bit, but a chasm remains.
Last: Collins (R) to hold by 36.
Now: Collins (R) to hold by 29.
Ed Markey (D)
Markey won the appointment to finish John Kerry's term after Kerry's elevation to State. Now that Mass has gotten its urge to elect a Republican U.S. Senator once every 50 years out of the way, Markey is settling into a ho-hum campaign against designated Republican lamb Selectman Bruce Herr and has intelligently avoided being associated with the tumultuous gubernatorial contest.
Last: Markey (D) to hold by 22.
Now: Markey (D) to hold by 22.
Xerox Iowa here, with a change of outcome. U.S. Rep Gary Peters was slated to not break a sweat in gliding to retiring Carl Levin's seat. Then, early polls showed surprising strength for the challenger, former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R). She made the mistake of opening her mouth. When a "War on Women" ad she made seemed facile, her managers apparently overscripted her. While Peters is setting no records for Twitter followers, Land has appeared tense, uninformed, and rote in personal appearances. While GOP Governor Rick Snyder has a probable path to victory, his lead isn't so impressive that coattails are likely. The national GOP is cutting its losses here to concentrate on more competitive races.
Last: Peters (D) to hold by 3.5.
Now: Peters (D) to hold by 6.
Al Franken (D)
With many other entrees available, the national GOP was hesitant to sample Franken's vulnerability. With his opponent, financial executive Mike McFadden, displaying fundraising prowess, Franken and the state Dems carefully and quietly avoided national issues to focus on building the local base. The strategy paid off as both the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial incumbents have maintained moderate but steady leads, keeping under the radar as other states attracted national attention.
Last: Franken (D) to hold by 6.5.
Now; Franken (D) to hold by 6.
Thad Cochran (R)
The more radical Tea Partiers got schooled in how to legally win an election. Now, the party is reaping the benefit. While this could have become another difficult hold for the junior party, Cochran is walking to victory over former U.S. Rep Travis Childers (D).
Last: Cochran (R) to hold by 15.
Now: Cochran (R) to hold by 16.5.
Early in the year, incumbent Max Baucus saw what his vote for Obamacare was going to cost him, and decided this was a great time to accept an ambassadorship to China. Lt. Governor John Walsh's fumbling forced him to drop from the race. The Dems threw in the towel and tossed the consolation nomination to loony toons state rep Amanda Curtis. U.S. Rep Steve Daines (R) has graciously accepted the title of this cycle's Luckiest Candidate.
Last: Daines (R) to take by 14.5.
Now: Daines (R) to take by 17.
Incumbent Mike Johanns likely wouldn't have had to face an opponent. When he dropped, university president Ben Sasse came out of the crowd to grab the GOP title. Democrat attorney Dave Domina will make the argument for the opposition. This year, Both candidates might as well speak in ancient Babylonian. Sasse in a crawl.
Last: Sasse (R) to hold by 19.
Now: Sasse (R) to hold by 22.
Jeanne Shaheen (D)
Republicans took it as a great coup when former Massachusetts U.S. Senator Scott Brown agreed to transfer his giant-slaying skills to the far more GOP friendly Granite State from Taxachusetts. Although Jeanne Shaheen has a far deeper base than the chilly Martha Coakley, and Brown had to divert time and money to fight off a large and not entirely minor contingent of primary opponents, Brown has kept a steady hand. Shaheen did once lose a U.S. Senate race here, to John Sununu in 2002, and the Republican tide might very well sweep both Democrat U.S. Reps out. This one has tightened, but Shaheen has been careful also and has a good chance to run out the clock.
Last: Shaheen (D) to hold by 6.
Now: Shaheen (D) to hold by 3.
Cory Booker (D)
After Booker won by a surprisingly weak ten points in last year's special election, the GOP should have raised the stakes here. Instead, they assumed Booker was safe and invested elsewhere. GOP activist (and 1978 nominee) Jeff Bell, though underfunded, kept up the heat. This seems to be another outlier, like Minnesota and Illinois, where supposedly safe Dems could have been endangered by early money. Now, it appears the moment has passed.
Last: Booker (D) to hold by 8.
Now: Booker (D) to hold by 10.
Tom Udall (D)
Here we have yet another underpolled race where the supposedly safe Democrat incumbent is up only single digits. Everyone knows Tom Udall isn't in the same trouble as his Coloradan cousin Mark. Everyone knows the Democrats are ascendent in New Mexico. Except ... Republican Governor Susana Martinez has blown her race open while Udall is sinking. Also, ex-GOP state chair Allen Weh is no patsy. There are an awful lot of peripheral races outside of the ten or so getting all the media attention as "in play" which could have been on the radar. Everyone knows Dick Durbin, Al Franken, Cory Booker, Jeff Merkley, and Tom Udall are heavy favorites to win. However, a little more GOP seed money could have turned this harvest into a bumper crop.
Last: Udall (D) to hold by 9.5.
Now: Udall (D) to hold by 6.5.
Kay Hagan (D)
If Hagan pulls this out, she is required to send a bouquet of roses to Libertarian Sean Haugh. Hagan got off to a rocky start by stumbling, almost literally, over the Obamacare issue, and she drew her strongest opponent, state House Speaker Tom Tillis. Also, Obama lost North Carolina in 2012, and he's more unpopular now. However, Tillis is marked with pushing through a host of conservative measures during his legislative leadership, allowing Hagan to counter-punch with accusations of extremism. She knows how to close, also, as she showed in her stunning upset of Elizabeth Dole in 2008. Huge money is changing hands here and it's likely to be a late night on election day. This is closing to a miniscule difference. The odds say Hagan, but I have a gut feeling (which is always wrong), that the wave will carry Tillis in.
Last: Pick 'em (preference Tillis (R) to take).
Now Tillis (R) to take by 1.
James Inhofe (R)
Must be nice to be James Inhofe. His is not even the most contentious U.S. Senate race in the state. That goes to the special to fill Tom Coburn's vacancy. Dems put up a real nice guy insurance agent against Inhofe. Wonder if he can get a policy on his own campaign?
Last: Inhofe (R) to hold by 25.
Now: Inhofe (R) to hold by 31.
With Tom Coburn deciding he's had enough of being the U.S. Senate's voice crying in the wilderness, Republicans cleared the field for U.S. Rep James Lankford. Dems took state Senator Connie Johnson. Voters are very unlikely to split their Senate tickets in the Panhandle this cycle.
Last: Lankford (R) to hold by 21.5.
Now: Lankford (R) to hold by 30.
Jeff Merkley (D)
This is one Republicans are cutting their wager on. Pediatric surgeon Monica Wehby seemed a top flight and charismatic recruit. Merkley is a freshman who barely scraped in 2008. However, some odd allegations from Wehby's personal past, including disputes with a former husband and a boyfriend, mired her momentum. Merkley has been able to quietly avoid controversy regarding the usual Democrat problems regarding Obamacare and the economy.GOP donors decided other races had a far better chance of return and this one has been written off.
Last: Merkley (D) to hold by 8.5.
Now: Merkley (D) to hold by 12.
Jack Reed (D)
New England has assumed an odd position this year. Reed and Markey in Mass are sleeping through landslides, but including RI, the GOP might well gain four Governor's mansions to run their New England total to five of six. Seems even Yankees know when their neighbors are picking their pockets. Yet, when it comes to Washington D.C., the free spenders get a pass. Whatever. Republicans got their best with ex-state chair Mark Zaccaria, but he was a sacrificial lamb from the start.
Last: Reed (D) to hold by 24.
Now: Reed (D) to hold by 28.5.
Lindsey Graham (R)
With the Tea Party moving the GOP rightward, Graham has gone from looking like a moderate conservative, relatively, to someone at the left fringes of his party. The Tea Partiers have a dog in the general, former state Treasurer and cocaine felon independent Thomas Ravenal. Ravenal is polling near double digits, but that has only slightly impacted Graham's lead over Democrat state Senator Brad Hutto. A Libertarian may take a point or two also. All this has seemed to split the opposition rather than drain Graham, and he's maintaining a mid-teens lead.
Last: Graham (R) to hold by 12.
Now: Graham (R) to hold by 14.5.
Tim Scott (R)
Of course, the special election to fill departed Jim DeMint's seat will give the Tea Party a reason to turn out. Appointed Tim Scott is a conservative rock star and is gliding over Dem Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson in a contest of African-Americans. How's that for Deep South racial progress?
Last: Scott (R) to hold by 13.5.
Now: Scott (R) to hold by 17.5.
With Tim Johnson having legitimate health issues, he needed no further excuse to avoid what would have been an arduous reelection attempt. Career federal bureaucrat Rick Weiland brings competence to the Democrat's side, and former U.S. Senator Larry Pressler is running an independent bid. There was some doubt when polls showed Pressler surging and Republican Governor Mike Rounds fading, but Rounds has steadied and again has assumed a double digit lead over the split opposition. He should stroll from here.
Last: Rounds (R) to take by 16.
Now: Rounds (R) to take by 13.
Lamar Alexander (R)
Alexander can continue building his resume as most powerful Republican in state history, apologies to Howard Baker. He's benefitting from the recent GOP desire for safe victories and looks to move up the Senate hierarchy. A polite double digit win is expected over attorney Gordon Ball (D).
Last: Alexander (R) to hold by 19.5.
Now: Alexander (R) to hold by 16.
John Cornyn (R)
Cornyn has benefitted greatly from the Tea Party rebellion. Once seen as being a right winger even within his party, his consistency as his fellows moved further right has him now positioned in the conservative center with feet in both camps. Plus, his junior partner, Ted Cruz, deflects any attention from Cornyn's positions. The somewhat cantankerous governor's race also distracts the spotlight away. There may be many people arriving in the polling booth this year who are surprised to discover Cornyn's up for reelection. That won't stop them from voting for him over Lebanese immigrant dentist David Alameel, though.
Last: Cornyn (R) to hold by 16.
Now: Cornyn (R) to hold by 19.5.
Mark Warner (D)
When Republicans drafted big money insider Ed Gillespie to challenge Warner, Warner pulled out all the stops. His relentless campaign has resulted in his maintaining a wide lead, though most analysts don't consider him safe. The GOP did force the Dems to tie up a lot of money in this swing state. Looks like the elder party needed to, as this is getting tight at the close.
Last: Warner (D) to hold by 12.5.
Now: Warner (D) to hold by 6.
With Jay Rockefeller deciding now was a good time to avoid losing for a second time to a member of the Moore family (he lost to Arch Moore in a 1982 gubernatorial tilt), Moore's daughter, U.S. Rep Shelley Capito became the odds on favorite to become the first elected Republican U.S. Senator in West Virginia since W. Chapman Revercomb in 1942. Dems got their best with state Secretary of State Natalie Tennant. Tennant has campaigned intelligently by pretending Barack Obama is someone from Neptune whom she disagrees with ardently, but the year is wrong for her. Romney swept here with 62%. This energy producing state is very displeased with anyone whose title ends with (D). Capito may well carry in a completely GOP congressional slate in the Mountaineer state.
Last: Capito (R) to take by 7.5.
Now: Capito (R) to take by 15.
Mike Enzi (R)
Enzi's opponent is Charlie Hardy, a very nice ex-priest substitute teacher. I hope he didn't burn his lesson plans.
Last: Enzi (R) to hold by 48.
Now: Enzi (R) to hold by 39.