STATE OF THE RACE Romney will face Obama, Republicans might take Senate
With 70 days remaining until the Iowa caucus, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is the heavy favorite to become the Republican presidential nominee. Leading in the polls and viewed by many within the party as the sole remaining credible candidate, it is unsurprising that Romney is being given a 70 percent chance of taking the nomination by Intrade, a leading prediction market.
With the issue of who will face President Obama next November slowly becoming settled, attention is now turning to the question of whether or not Romney is likely to win. Both the polls and prediction markets put the race at a coin flip. Independent nationwide polls by Rasmussen Reports, the Associated Press, Public Policy Polling, NBC News/Wall Street Journal, ABC News/Washington Post, Pew Research, Fox News, CNN, Gallup/USA Today, and McClatchy/Marist all have the two candidates within three points of one another. The only two major polling groups in the past month to have found a lead wider than three points for either candidate are TIME (+4 for Obama) and Quinnipac (+4 for Romney).
As the general election for the White House moves into the fore of media attention, so too are the Class 1 U.S. Senate seats up for reelection in 2012. Republicans need a net swing of four senate seats to secure the upper chamber, and at the moment are being given 3-to-1 odds to accomplish such a feat. Twelve of the thirty-three races look to be competitive next year, with ten of those seats held by Democrats and two by Republicans. Below is a brief summary of the races to watch:
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. — Nelson’s approval ratings are terrible, but polls have him crushing the GOP names being floated to oppose him.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio — Brown faces a weak field and has good numbers in a state that is purple, not red.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. — McCaskill’s numbers are weak, but she should be considered a slight favorite.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. — Tester is a slight favorite, having amassed a considerable campaign war chest during his first term.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. — Manchin is the Democrat’s version of Scott Brown, a popular man in a state where his party is unpopular. Recent polls suggest he has a comfortable lead, despite the deep conservatism of his electorate. Republicans might have a better chance of flipping Manchin than beating him.
Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M. — Bingaman is retiring, and the likely race between Heather Wilson and Rep. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. will be close.
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev. — Heller, serving the remainder of Jon Ensign’s term, is in a dead heat against likely contender Rep. Shelley Berkley D-Nev.
Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va. — Webb is stepping down, which will likely lead to a clash of titans between Tim Kaine and George Allen in one of the most centrist states in the nation. Recent polling from Quinnipac, Rasmussen, and the Richmond Times—Dispatch put this one at a statistical dead heat.
Sen. Heb Kohl D-Wis. — Kohl is stepping down, and Republicans are likely to run their heaviest hitter, former state governor Tommy Thompson. Democrats will have a hard time holding unless they can get Russ Feingold to run.
Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb. — Like Bill Nelson, Ben Nelson’s numbers are quite weak, but unlike Bill, Ben polls behind his likely opponents— either Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning or Nebraska Treasurer Don Stenberg — by sizable margins.
Sen. Brown, R-Mass. — Brown has high voter approval ratings, but is going to square off against liberal darling Elizabeth Warren in a very blue state. Recent polls put him up 3-5 points in a head-to-head against Warren.
Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D. — Conrad is retiring, and Democrats will find it near impossible to hold onto a deep red state in a straight fight.
It’s 378 days until Election Day, and this is The State of the Race.