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Daily Tracking to Start this Week

With the end of voting in Alaska yesterday, there are no more primaries left in competitive states, except maybe New Hampshire, where Scott Brown is the strong favorite to be the Republican nominee. It hardly matter who wins the upcoming Republican primaries in Delaware, Masschusetts, and Rhode Island on Sept. 9, since the Democratic incumbent will coast to an easy victory in November. Up until now it was impossible to track the Senate state by state because we didn't know who the key nominees were. As soon as the Alaska vote has been fully counted, we will know, so daily tracking with the interactive map will begin in a few days.

There is one key "primary" that will not happen until Nov. 4: Louisiana. Technically, the election on Nov. 4 in Louisiana is just a multiparty primary, with the top two finishers facing a runoff on Dec. 6, unless one candidate gets 50% of the vote in the primary, which seems unlikely. Probably Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) will face off in the runoff. Where possible, we will try to use polling data for the runoff and ignore the other primary candidates, since none of them have a chance to make the runoff. It is entirely possible that control of the Senate will hinge on the Dec. 6 runoff, in which case all television programming in the state of Louisiana will be preempted for 5 weeks in favor of bitter attack ads 24/7.

Special Elections in Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Hawaii This Year

One point is worth mentioning now. There are special elections in Oklahoma (due to the impending retirement of Sen. Tom Coburn to fight cancer), South Carolina (due to the retirement of Jim DeMint to run the Heritage Foundation), and Hawaii (due to the death of long-time senator Daniel Inouye). Unfortunately, the software that runs this site was designed assuming there is only one Senate election per state per cycle. This idea permeates the software from top to bottom and is impossible to change without rewriting all of it, which is a tremendous amount of work. The simplest (most cowardly?) way to deal with this is just to track the regular elections in Oklahoma and South Carolina and assume that Republicans James Lankford and Tim Scott, respectively, will win their special elections. Both of these are deep red states where Democrats rarely win statewide races. In Hawaii, there is only one Senate race, so although it is technically a special election to fill out Inouye's term, it will be tracked as though it were a regular election.

The South Carolina special election is an interesting case in a way. When DeMint resigned from the Senate, the Indian-American governor, Nimrata "Nikki" Haley, appointed a black congressman, Tim Scott, to his seat, which is why he faces a special election this year. The Democrats could have nominated a white man to oppose him with the slogan "Vote for the white guy." Given South Carolina's history, this might have worked. But they didn't. Instead they nominated a black woman whose only political experience is being a member of the Richland County Council. As a consequence, race cancels out and there is no way an unknown political neophyte is going to beat a sitting senator, even an appointed one, so we feel confident that simply counting this race as a Republican win will not affect the battle for control of the Senate. If circumstances change, this will be reevaluated. With an Indian-American governor and a black senator for certain, South Carolina may have finally made a break with its racist past.

Third-Party Candidates a Factor in Some States

Fortunately, the software was designed to handle third-party candidates and in two states there are significant third-party candidates. In North Carolina, Libertarian Sean Haugh is running against Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) and state house speaker Thom Tillis (R). Haugh could draw enough votes from Tillis to tip the election to Hagan, so his score is worth watching. In South Dakota, former three-term U.S. senator Larry Pressler wants his old job back. While former governor Mike Rounds (R) is the favorite over Democrat Rick Weiland, Pressler is so well known in the state, that he could be a factor. There are also third-party challenges in many other races, but invariably they poll well early in the race and fizzle on election day, so we won't bother following them unless one suddenly emerges as a major factor. Also, pollsters rarely include them in the list of choices given to respondents, so there is little data about them.

As an aside, photos of all the Democratic and Republican Senate candidates and descriptions of all the races (also the special elections) are available on the Senate candidates page. A link to it is given on the blue above the map. It will be updated whenever circumstances change.

Sullivan Wins Alaska Republican Senate Primary

With 80% of the precincts reporting, former state attorney general and former natural resources commissioner Dan Sullivan is primed to win the Republican nomination. He has 40% of the vote to 32% for tea party activist and Sarah Palin endorsee Joe Miller, and 25% for Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (R-AK). Although 20% of the votes and all the absentee ballots are yet to be counted, the Associated Press has called the race for Sullivan, the establishment favorite. He will face Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) in November.

Begich's victory in 2008 was partly due to good luck. His opponent, then senator Ted Stevens, was convicted of seven federal felonies just weeks before the election. Also, Alaska is a young state and some younger voters no doubt felt that electing an 86-year-old to the Senate was not quite what they had in mind. In addition, 2008 was a presidential election year, and Begich was able to ride Obama's coattails. Nevertheless, he won by only 4000 votes. This year he is on his own and will face a tough race.

Hanabusa Concedes in Hawaii Senate Primary

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI) has finally conceded to Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) in her attempt to unseat him in the Hawaii Democratic Senate primary. The election was marred by a tropical storm that made two precincts inaccessible, but when the storm passed, the election was held the following week there and Schatz ended up with more votes statewide than Hanabusa. Ethnic issues played a role in the election. Schatz is the favorite to win election im November to the seat to which Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed him upon the death of the previous incumbent, Daniel Inouye.

DSCC Outraises NRSC in July

In what promises to be a bloody battle for control of the Senate, both sides are well armed. In July, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee outraised the National Republican Senatorial Committee $7.7 million to $5.5 million. The Democrats have $32 million in the bank now to the Republicans' $27 million. Spending by outside groups may dwarf these amounts, however, as the parties are gradually losing control of their own campaigns.

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