Updated polls in 10 key U.S. Senate races
US Senate Polls
October 21, 2012
By: Ryan Witt
While the White House is the top prize in this election, both parties are also battling for control of the United States Senate. The Senate holds enormous over public policy. Of course, every law must be passed through the Senate, but Senators also have the authority to confirm judicial nominees, ratify treaties, and impeach federal officers (including the president) under Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution.
The Democrats currently control the Senate with a 53-47 majority, but are defending more competitive seats than Republicans. The GOP dreams of a scenario in which Romney takes over the White House and his party controls both the House and Senate. Democrats are trying to hold on to the White House and Senate, with an outside chance of taking over the House where Republicans currently have a majority.
Listed below are the top ten U.S. Senate races that will likely decide who controls the legislative chamber next year. Based on the polls and projections below, as well as polls in other contests not listed here, the Democrats are projected to keep their majority in the Senate by a 52-48 margin. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook or bookmark this page for continual updates leading up to the election.
Seat Currently Held By: Senator Scott Brown (R)
Challenger: Elizabeth Warren (D)
Most Recent Poll: Warren 49%, Brown 47% (Rasmussen 10/10)
Real Clear Politics Average: Warran 48.0%, Brown 46.3%
Nate Silver Probability Analysis: 89.1% chance of Warren win
Projected Winner: Elizabeth Warren
Analysis: Sen. Scott Brown shocked the political world by winning as a Republican in Massachusetts in 2009, which deprived the Democrats of their filibuster-proof majority in the chamber. Brown has tried to run as a moderate in a state that has demographics that clearly favor Democrats (President Obama won by 26 points here in 2008). Brown was leading in almost every poll over the last few months, but Warren has surged in the past three weeks. Democrats now have a good chance of gaining a seat on Republicans in Massachusetts, which will make it more difficult for Republicans to gain a majority. The Real Clear Politics (RCP) data now has Warren 1.7 points ahead, which is down by 0.8 points since last week. Rasmussen Reports, an organization known for favoring Republican candidates, has Warren with a two point lead. Nate Silver increased Warren's chances for victory by 7.4 percent.
Seat Currently Held By: Senator Clair McCaskill (D)
Challenger: Rep. Todd Akin (R)
Most Recent Poll: McCaskill 51%, Akin 43% (Rasmussen Reports 10/17)
Real Clear Politics Average: McCaskill 45.8%, Akin 43.5%
Nate Silver Probability Analysis: 86.9% chance of McCaskill win
Projected Winner: McCaskill
Analysis: After being considered a swing state for much of the last 40 years Missouri has trended Republican over the last decade. McCaskill won by three points over Rep. Jim Talent in the 2006 election, but the state went to Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential election even though Obama won big nationally. Missouri once was considered a fairly safe pickup for Republicans, but Akin stumbled big when he claimed that “legitimate rape” victims cannot get pregnant. McCaskill now leads in the most recent polls, and Democrats are favored to keep the seat. Rasmussen Reports latest poll now has McCaskill up by eight points. Nate Silver increased McCaskill's odds for victory by 4.1 percent.
Seat Currently Held By: Sen. Joe Lieberman (Independent but caucuses with Democrats)
Candidates: Rep. Chris Murphy (D) and Linda McMahon (R)
Most Recent Poll: Murphy 51%, McMahon 46% (Hartford Courant/UCONN 10/16)
Real Clear Politics Average: Murphy 47.0%, McMahon 42.7%
Nate Silver Probability Analysis: 78.0% chance of Murphy win
Projected Winner: Murphy
Analysis: Sen. Joe Lieberman is retiring which leaves the possibility for a pickup for Republicans. While he caucused with Democrats, Lieberman often voted with Republicans and even campaigned for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in the 2008 presidential election. Like Massachusetts, the demographics favor Democrats. The latest poll from Hartford Courant/UCONN gives Murphy a six point lead, and Murphy has a solid lead in the RCP average. Nate Silver increased Murphy's odds for victory by 4.0 percent.
Seat Currently Held By: Sen. Dean Heller (R)
Challenger: Shelly Berkley (D)
Most Recent Poll: Heller 50%, Berkley 43% (Rasmussen 10/15)
Real Clear Politics Average: Heller 45.8%, Berkley 41.0%
Nate Silver Probability Analysis: 74.5% chance of Heller win
Projected Winner: Heller
Analysis: Nevada is another rare chance for Democrats to pick up a seat currently held by Republicans. The most recent poll has Helley up by three points, the same margin that RCP has Heller up by in their average of three polls. Since last week, Nate Silver increased Heller's chances for victory by 3.2 percent. At this point, the seat is still projected to remain Republican, but Democrats have an opportunity if they make gains in the final weeks.
Seat Currently Held By: Sen. Jim Webb (D)
Candidates: Tim Kaine (D) versus George Allen (R)
Most Recent Poll: Kaine 48%, Allen 47% (Rasmussen 10/11)
Real Clear Politics Average: Kaine 47.6%, Allen 45.4%
Nate Silver Probability Analysis: 82.0% chance of Kaine win
Projected Winner: Kaine
Analysis: In 2006 Allen was defeated by just one percentage point against Jim Webb. Sen. Webb is not running again, leaving former Gov. Tim Kaine (D) to fight for the seat. Kaine has a small lead in the most recent poll from Rasmussen Reports, and maintains a lead in the RCP average. Nate Silver increased Kaine's chances for victory by 2.5 percent over the last week. At this point, the seat appears to be a solid hold for Democrats.
Seat Currently Held By: Sen. Herb Kohl (D)
Candidates: Tammy Baldwin (D) and Tommy Thompson (R)
Most Recent Poll: Baldwin 49%, Thompson 45% (NBC News/WSJ 10/17)
Real Clear Politics Average: Baldwin 48.4%, Thompson 46.0%
Nate Silver Probability Analysis: 85.1% chance of Baldwin win
Projected Winner: Baldwin
Analysis: Five-term U.S. Senator Herb Kohl decided not to run for re-election which gave Republicans another prime opportunity to pick up a seat from Democrats. Baldwin leads in the most recent and has maintained at least a two point advantage in the RCP average for over a month now. Nate Silver increased Baldwin's chances of winning by 1.3 percent since last week. President Obama also hold a large lead in the Badger State according to the most recent polls, so Baldwin could benefit if the Romney campaign gives up on Wisconsin.
Seat Currently Held By: Senator Richard Lugar (R)
Candidates: Richard Mourdock (R) and Joe Donnelly (D)
Most Recent Poll: Mourdock 47%, Donnelly 42% (Rasmussen 10/11)
Real Clear Politics Average: None available.
Nate Silver Probability Analysis: 63.8% chance of Mourdock win
Projected Winner: Mourdock
Analysis: Long-time Senator Richard Lugar (R) was defeated in the Republican primary. Lugar was known as a moderate Republican, a group that is increasingly an endangered in today’s politics. The most recent poll from Rasmussen now has Mourdock with a five point lead. There is no RCP average available given the scarcity of polls from this state. Mitt Romney currently leads big over Obama in Indiana, and Mourdock may therefore benefit from increased turnout from his voters in an otherwise close election.
Seat Currently Held By: Sen. Jon Tester (D)
Challenger: Denny Rehberg
Most Recent Poll: Tester 48%, Rehberg 48% (Rasmussen 10/14)
Real Clear Politics Average: Rehberg 46.3%, Tester 46.0%
Nate Silver Probability Analysis: 56.8% chance of Rehberg win
Projected Winner: Rehberg
Analysis: Sen. Tester won by just one percent in 2006, and now faces a tough race in an election year that favors Republicans more than it did when he ran six years ago. Tester has gained momentum over the last week and is now tied in Rasmussen's latest poll, but the Real Clear Politics and demographics of Montana both favor Rehberg, and so the seat is projected to go Republican. Nate Silver has decreased Rehberg's odds for victory by 5.3 percent.
Seat Currently Held By: Sen. Olympia Snowe (R)
Candidates: Angus King (I), Charlie Summers (R), and Cynthia Dill (D)
Most Recent Poll: King 45%, Summers 33%, Dill 14% (Rasmussen 9/25)
Real Clear Politics Average: King 45.5%, Summers 31%, Dill 13.8%
Nate Silver Probability Analysis: 90.3% chance of King win
Projected Winner: King
Analysis: Democrats had an opportunity to pick up a seat after long-time Senator Olympia Snowe (R) decided not to run for re-election. However, the race changed when former governor and independent Angus King decided to run as an independent. King is now the overwhelming favorite, but the big question is which party he will caucus with if he wins re-election. Regardless, the Republicans have everything to lose in this race since the seat was formerly held by one of their own. Even if King caucuses with Republicans, he may prove an even less reliable vote than Snowe, opening up the possibility for more compromise with Democrats in the Senate.
Seat Currently Held By: Sen. Kent Conrad (D)
Candidates: Heidi Heitkamp (D) and Rick Berg (R)
Most Recent Poll: Berg 50%, Heitkamp 40% (Forum/Essman 10/15)
Real Clear Politics Average: Berg 48.5%, Heitkamp 43.5%
Nate Silver Probability Analysis: 82.2% chance of Berg win
Projected Winner: Berg
Analysis: Powerful Sen. Kent Conrad (D) decided to retire rather than face a tough re-election campaign, which opened the opportunity for Republicans to gain a seat. The most recent poll gives Berg a large ten point lead and Berg has a significant edge in the RCP average. Nate Silver gives Republicans good odds to win given the demographics of North Dakota and all the other factors Silver accounts for in this election (which are many).