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A Dozen Senate Seats Are in Play

While the presidential race is getting most of the air time, there is actually a lot going on in the Senate races. At the moment, the new Senate appears to be 49 Democrats and 49 Republicans with two ties. One of these is Arizona, which is a fairly red state. The other is Maine, where independent Angus King is winning in a landslide, but won't say which party he will caucus with. Many observers expect it to be the Democrats. Thus we could easily have a Senate deadlocked 50-50, thus giving the new Vice President something to do all day. If Romney wins, we could have the situation where a mere former congressman, Paul Ryan, is parachuted into the Senate to run the show.

A dozen seats are in play, as listed below. Incumbents are marked with an asterisk and the candidate who is leading is colored blue or red.

State Democrat D % Republican R % Pollster
Arizona Richard Carmona 38% Jeff Flake 38% PPP
Florida Bill Nelson* 47% Connie McGillicuddy 40% Rasmussen
Indiana Joe Donnelly 39% Richard Mourdock 41% Market Research
Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren 40% Scott Brown* 38% MassINC
Missouri Claire McCaskill* 44% Todd Akin 50% SurveyUSA+Chilenski
Montana Jon Tester* 47% Denny Rehberg 49% Rasmussen
Nevada Shelley Berkley 42% Dean Heller* 51% Rasmussen
New Mexico Martin Heinrich 48% Heather Wilson 43% PPP
North Dakota Heidi Heitkamp 40% Rick Berg 49% Rasmussen
Ohio Sherrod Brown* 46% Josh Mandel 41% Rasmussen+PPP
Virginia Tim Kaine 47% George Allen 46% Rasmussen+Quinnipiac U.
Wisconsin Tammy Baldwin 43% Tommy Thompson 54% Rasmussen

A number of races are very close. Arizona is a red state, but Richard Carmona, a Latino Vietnam veteran and George W. Bush's surgeon general has battled Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to a draw so far.

In Indiana, tea party candidate Richard Mourdock defeated shoo-in Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) to turn a rout into a close battle. If Joe Donnelly wins, this race will be like Nevada, Colorado, and Delaware last time, in which tea party candidates defeated almost certain winners in the Republican primaries and went on to lose in the general election.

Massachusetts is something of a mystery. It is one of the bluest states in the union, with all 10 House members being Democrats. After Teddy Kennedy died, Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) beat Martha Coakley in a special election, but she ran an awful campaign, taking a vacation in the middle of it. Brown has voted the party line 90% of the time, yet he is competitive in a state that rarely sends Republicans to Washington.

Montana is also very close. Both Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT) are incumbents and both represent the entire state. That one could go down to the wire.

Virginia is also very close. Former governor Tim Kaine gave up his position as chairman of the Democratic National Committee to try to hold the seat of retiring senator Jim Webb against George "Macaca" Allen, who is trying for a comeback.

Also noteworthy is that of the five states where Rasmussen is the only pollster listed, in four of them the Republican is leading. In Ohio, where Rasmussen and PPP polled at the same time, Rasmussen has it as a tie and PPP has Brown up 10 points. In Virginia, Rasmussen also has it as a tie, whereas Quinnipiac University has Kaine ahead by 2 points. In the other Rasmussen-polled states, there are no polls by other pollsters that are recent enough for a proper comparison.

There are descriptions of all the Senate races and photos of the candidates and more on the Senate page, which is updated every day and reachable by clicking on the word "Senate" to the right of the Capitol icon at the top of the page.

GOP Senate Nominee Says Legitimate Rape Victims Don't Get Pregnant

Rep. Todd Akin, who narrowly won a three-way Republican primary last week, yesterday said: "Legitimate rape victims rarely get pregnant." Todd did not explain either what constitutes a "legitimate" rape or how the victim's body distinguishes a "legitimate" rape from an "illegitimate" one. Needless to say, this remark caused an enormous uproar and has the Republican Party running for the hills. The gender gap favors the Democrats to start with, and Democratic candidates up and down the line are going to be using this remark to claim that Republicans hate women. Specifically, Akins's opponent--a woman--Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), is certainly going to beat Akin over the head with this remark in an attempt to catch up with him in a state that has been trending Republican.

Josh Kraushaar at National Review immediately wrote a piece entitled "Is Todd Akin Toast in Missouri?" listing some takeaways from Akin's remark:

2012 Will Be A Base Election

Here is yet another article claiming that the number of voters who truly haven't made up their minds yet is tiny, so the election will be won by the party that does the better job of turning out its base. One way to get a high turnout is to move away from the center and make more open appeals to the base rather than the middle. So we are likely to see a very partisan campaign when it really starts after Labor Day.

Romney Has a Big To-Do List for the Next Week

A week from now the Republicans will hold their convention in Tampa, Florida where they will officially nominate Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as their ticket. But between now and then, Romney has a number of items on his plate, as discussed by Michael Shear in this article. They include:

Most important is the convention speech. Should he go full red meat to get the base to turn out and to hell with the independents or should he try to woo them? When making this decision, he has to remember that Democrats will also be watching and moving sharply to the right will not only motivate the Republican base, it will also motivate the Democratic base. Also of note is that Romney is a somewhat wooden speaker, not unlike Al Gore, and style is as important as content. Obama has a much simpler task. He doesn't have to worry much about motivating the Republicans; they are already enraged and it is doubtful that anything he says could make them hate him more.

The End of WASP Rule?

Since its founding, the country has been run by WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants). That era appears to be over now. Neither the Democratic nor the Republican ticket has any WASPs on it. While Obama is a Protestant, he isn't white and Joe Biden is a Catholic. On the Republican side, Romney is a Mormon and Ryan is a Catholic.

Neither of the leaders of Congress are WASPS. Speaker John Boehner is a Catholic and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is a Mormon. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is a Catholic although Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is a Baptist.

The Supreme Court is a complete shutout for the WASPs. The current Court consists of six Catholics and three Jews. For the first time in history, there are no Protestants at all on the Court.

Thus of the top 17 positions (four national candidates, four leaders in Congress, and nine Supreme Court Justices) the only WASP is Mitch McConnell. Four of the 17 are women. This is an astounding change in a fairly short time. Back in the 1950s, something like this would have been unthinkable.

One cannot but wonder if a lot of the hatred and partisanship in politics (e.g., the appearance of the tea party out of nowhere) is a manifestation that the guard is changing and the people who used to run the show don't any more. Some of them may not be taking the end of their monopoly graciously.