The Rundown, pt. II: The Eight Races That Will Decide the Senate

Alaska

The Contendahs: Democrat Mark Begich, the former mayor of Anchorage, defeated six-term Senator Ted Stevens in 2008, capitalizing on Stevens’ conviction on ethics charges just days before the election. Begich’s seat became a target when Mitt Romney won the state in 2012 by 13 points. Enter Dan Sullivan, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps (he served a six-week tour in Afghanistan just last year), and the former Alaska Attorney General under Sarah Palin. The pivotal race has resulted in the highest spending per capita of this election cycle, with over $40 million in outside cash pouring in to try to capture the state’s half a million voters.
Who Loves Ya, Baby?:
  • Sullivan: Condoleeza Rice, Ted Cruz, Mitt Romney
  • Begich: AFL-CIO, NARAL
“Republicans Are Waging a War On…”: Law and Order!

An ad arguing that lax sentencing during Sullivan’s tenure as AG resulted in the death of an elderly couple was quickly pulled by the Begich campaign. Sullivan has followed the 2014 Republican playbook, pounding away at Begich for voting with Obama 97% of the time.
Joe Biden Award for Excellence: Begich, for apparently not understanding that “no means no.” Attempting to highlight common ground shared with Republican Lisa Murkowski, Begich used his fellow Alaska Senator’s picture in an ad. When Murkowski objected, Begich claimed that his prissy female colleague simply didn’t like the picture:

Said Murkowski, “That to me, is offensive. This is not a situation where you want to make sure you’ve got a pretty picture on the TV. That was an offensive statement and I don’t appreciate that.”
RINO Hunting: Conservative support went to Joe Miller in the Republican primary, with Sarah Palin giving her endorsement. While Ted Cruz has stumped for Sullivan, the candidate disappointed some on the Right by indicating he would vote to raise Alaska’s minimum wage.
Polls/Predictions:
  • New York Times: 66% Sullivan
  • Washington Post: 81% Sullivan
  • Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight: 74% Sullivan

Iowa

The Contendahs: Five-term Senator Tom Harkin announced his retirement in January 2013, resulting in a taut, closely-contested race for his seat. Democrat Bruce Braley has served four terms in the House, proving to be a reliably liberal vote while receiving a 100% rating from Planned Parenthood and an ‘F’ from the NRA. Republican Joni Ernst is his ideological opposite, a pro-life military veteran (with a combined 21 years of service in the U.S. Army Reserves and Iowa National Guard) who supports balanced budgets and gun rights. Plus, she can castrate a hog:

Who Loves Ya, Baby?:
  • Ernst: Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio
  • Braley: Tom Harkin, Bill Clinton
“Republicans Are Waging a War On…”: Women!

And the Joe Biden Award for Excellence Goes to…: Outgoing Senator Harkin, who implied that the only reason why Ernst was receiving attention was because of her looks and who for some reason uses Taylor Swift as his gold standard for beauty.

RINO Hunting: Ernst would appear to be a strong conservative vote should she make it to the Senate, and has received endorsements from Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Express.
Polls/Predictions:
  • New York Times: 69% Ernst
  • Washington Post: 88% Ernst
  • Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight: 70% Ernst

Colorado

The Contendahs: In the blue corner is incumbent Mark Udall, a former five-term Congressman seeking a second term in the upper chamber. His opponent: Republican Cory Gardner, who first rode into the House on the 2010 Tea Party tsunami. At stake nationally is control of the Senate, but this race also encapsulates an ongoing battle for the heart and soul of Colorado: while the state has more registered Republicans, Democrat mobilization and turnout drives have threatened to turn the former reliably red state blue.
Who Loves Ya, Baby?:
  • Gardner: Rick Santorum, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush
  • Udall: Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama
“Republicans Are Waging a War On…”: Women!

So over-the-top was Udall’s focus on abortion and reproductive rights during the campaign that he earned the nickname “Mark Uterus”. Supporter NARAL even issued an ad imagining a post-apocalyptic world where Gardner had banned condoms. In response to Udall’s “war on women” attacks, Gardner announced his support in June for over-the-counter birth control sales.
And the Joe Biden Award for Excellence Goes to…: 

Udall, who plumbed new lows by insisting that James Foley and Steve Sotloff, two of the reporters beheaded by ISIS savages, would urge caution in the fight against the terrorist group, were they alive today.
RINO Hunting: Gardner was a Tea Party sensation in 2010, but has since provoked distrust among conservatives with his support of OTC birth control and his vote in favor of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Polls/Predictions:
  • New York Times: 80% Gardner
  • Washington Post: 98% Gardner
  • Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight: 72% Gardner

Louisiana

The Contendahs: Welcome to the jungle: Under Louisiana’s “jungle primary” system, Election Day is also primary day, where candidates of all stripes and parties face off on the same ballot. As a result, incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu finds herself in the fight of her life against two Republican opponents: retired Air Force colonel Rob Maness and three-term Congressman Bill Cassidy. While Cassidy is the only serious contender of the two, Maness’ presence on Tuesday may force a December 6 runoff if no candidate reaches the magical 50% threshold.
Who Loves Ya, Baby?:
  • Cassidy: Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry
  • Maness: Sarah Palin, Mark Levin
  • Landrieu: Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton
“Republicans Are Waging a War On…”: Border Security! Landrieu had the cajones to classify herself as a border hawk only a year after declaring, “I voted for the dumb fence once. I’m not going to do it again…so if somebody else wants to go and vote for the dumb fence for the second or third time, go right ahead.”
Bonus: War on Women!

And the Joe Biden Award for Excellence Goes to…: Landrieu, for appealing to the voters of Louisiana by calling them sexist and racist.

RINO Hunting: Maness is the Tea Party candidate in this race, but he has no hope of winning. He has criticized Cassidy for proposing bills reminiscent of Obamacare during his time in the Louisiana State Senate.
Polls/Predictions:
  • New York Times: 85% Cassidy
  • Washington Post: 98% Cassidy
  • Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight: 81% Cassidy