The Rundown: The Eight Races That Will Decide the Senate

New Hampshire

The Contendahs: Incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen takes on former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown in one of the year’s most hotly-contested campaigns. Shaheen was New Hampshire’s first female Governor, serving three terms from 1996-2002. After losing her first U.S. Senate campaign to John Sununu in 2002, she won a rematch in 2008, becoming both the first female U.S. Senator in New Hampshire’s history as well as the first woman of any state to be elected both Governor and U.S. Senator. For Brown, 2014 marks his third U.S. Senate campaign in the last five years. After a much-heralded win over Martha Coakley for Ted Kennedy’s seat in 2010, Brown lost a re-election bid in 2012 to Elizabeth Warren. He’s packed up his pickup truck in search of friendlier voters in New Hampshire, seeking to become just the third Senator in history to serve multiple states.
Who Loves Ya, Baby?: 
  • Brown: Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, Kelly Ayotte
  • Shaheen: Elizabeth Warren
“Republicans Are Waging a War On…”: Women!

 Shaheen has also tried to hang the “carpetbagger” label around Brown’s neck, taunting that “New Hampshire is not a consolation prize.” Brown’s campaign, meanwhile, has sought to link Shaheen with President Obama, portraying her as a rubber stamp for the administration’s unpopular initiatives, specifically Obamacare.
And the Joe Biden Award for Excellence Goes to…: Campaign surrogate Elizabeth Warren, who told the audience of The View that Shaheen is out there working hard for the people of … Vermont.

RINO Hunting: Although he rode the Tea Party wave into office in 2010 based on his promise to be the deciding vote against Obamacare, Brown is what he is: a moderate Republican serving liberal constituencies. While he largely supports conservative fiscal measures, he labeled himself “pro-choice” on abortion during the 2012 campaign against Warren and became the first Republican Senator to support a federal assault-weapons ban following the Sandy Hook shooting.
Predictions: 
  • New York Times: 66% Shaheen
  • Washington Post: 97% Shaheen
  • Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight: 79% Shaheen

North Carolina

The Contendahs: Democrat Kay Hagan, picked by many early analysts to be one of 2014’s most vulnerable incumbents, is struggling to survive against Republican Thom Tillis, Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives. Hagan rode the Obama coattails to victory in 2008, defeating Elizabeth Dole in an ugly contest. Tillis served four terms in the North Carolina General Assembly, becoming Speaker in 2013. He won his primary (which included a state record eight candidates) handily, trouncing his nearest opponent by 18 points. The wild card in the general election is a pizza delivery guy:

Creepy Mr. Rogers has polled around 5% and may siphon off enough Republican support to cost Tillis the election. This race, neck-and-neck throughout, has earned the distinction of being the costliest in U.S. congressional history, with the parties involved having exceeded $108 million in spending.

Who Loves Ya, Baby?:
  • Tillis: Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, Chamber of Commerce
  • Hagan: Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton
“Republicans Are Waging a War On…”: Education!

While Hagan has attacked Tillis’ supposed cuts to school spending, Tillis has sought to link Hagan to Obama, citing her support of the President’s policies 95% of the time. A last-minute ad cut by Obama, urging voters to “stand with him” by voting for Hagan, was even posted on Tillis’ YouTube channel.

Joe Biden Award for Excellence:
Hagan, for skipping the October 21 debate and granting Tillis what amounted to an hour-long interview in prime-time.
RINO Hunting: Tillis angered many conservatives by skipping several Tea Party-sponsored debates early in the campaign. He has also received strong support from establishment stalwarts such as Karl Rove, Jeb Bush and the Chamber of Commerce.
Predictions:
  • New York Times: 71% Hagan
  • Washington Post: 77% Hagan
  • Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight: 69% Hagan

Kansas

The Contendahs: Pat Roberts, the Republican incumbent, finds himself without a Democratic opponent for the second time in his last three Senate campaigns. Unlike 2002, when he won in blowout fashion against two minor party challengers, Roberts faces stiff competition this time around from Independent candidate Greg Orman. A weak Democratic nominee, Chad Taylor, was nudged out in early September, amid fears that a three-party race would ensure a GOP victory. For Roberts, re-election would mean a fourth term in the U.S. Senate, following a 16-year run in the House. Orman, a millionaire entrepreneur, is a wild-card, with a scattershot history of donations and political support traversing party lines: a former college Republican, he donated to Harry Reid’s campaign in 2006, supported Obama in 2008, even briefly ran against Roberts as a Democrat that same year, then contributed to Scott Brown in 2010 and voted for Romney in 2012. While Orman pledges to caucus with whichever party wins the majority, Joe Biden seems pretty sure the “down-the-middle” candidate will be hanging a left should he make it to the Senate.
Who Loves Ya, Baby?:
  • Roberts: Jeb Bush, Sarah Palin, Bob Dole, Newt Gingrich
  • Orman: AFL-CIO
“Republicans Are Waging a War On…”: Working Together!

Orman has played the “independent” card for all its worth, positioning himself as a reasonable, fair-minded, free-thinker who will challenge the establishment on both sides. Roberts has sought to highlight Orman’s liberal past, including his abbreviated 2008 campaign as a Democrat and his political contributions to Harry Reid.
Joe Biden Award for Excellence: Orman, for inadvertently insulting a Kansas icon and giving Roberts an easy talking point in the campaign’s final week. When asked about the steady-stream of surrogates flowing in to stump for Roberts, Orman replied, “It sort of seems like a Washington establishment clown car to me. You know, every day a new person comes out of that car.” Seeing as how Dole, a multiple Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient was one of those “new people”, the insinuation that he had called the five-term Senator a “clown” was all too easy for the Roberts camp to make.
RINO Hunting: Roberts earned the ire of many conservatives early on in the campaign when it was revealed that his primary residence is in Virginia, rather than Kansas (similar revelations led to Indiana Senator Richard Lugar’s ouster in 2012). Prominent voices such as Mark Levin supported the incumbent’s primary opponent, physician Milton Wolfe. However, in an effort to rally the base during the general election, Roberts has received support from Tea Party favorites Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz.
Predictions:
  • New York Times: 51% Roberts
  • Washington Post: 50/50
  • Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight: 53% Orman

Georgia

The Contendahs: It’s a family affair as Democrat Michelle Nunn, daughter of former Senator Sam Nunn, takes on David Perdue, cousin of former Governor Sonny Perdue, in a battle to replace departing Republican Saxby Chambliss. Nunn built her resume in the non-profit world, heading various organizations with the words “Hands-On” and “Cares” in their name. Her most recent role was as CEO of Points of Light, a foundation started by former President George H.W. Bush. Former President George H.W. Bush would greatly appreciate it if she’d stop mentioning that last fact. Perdue, meanwhile, earned a reputation as a corporate turnaround specialist, rebuilding Reebok before turning Dollar General into a nationwide giant. Whereas Nunn won decisively in the Democratic primary, Perdue needed a runoff to squeak by opponent Jack Kingston. A runoff in the general election is a distinct possibility as Libertarian challenger Amanda Swafford may prevent either candidate from reaching the 50% threshold required to win outright.
Who Loves Ya, Baby?:
  • Perdue: Herman Cain, George H.W. Bush
  • Nunn: Jimmy Carter, Richard Lugar, Michelle Obama
“Republicans Are Waging a War On…”: Jobs!

The focus has been on Perdue’s brief tenure as head of a textile manufacturer called Pillowtex. Brought in to turn around the failing business (the company had just emerged from bankruptcy proceedings), Perdue wound up jumping ship after just 7 months, bailing shortly before the company’s ultimate collapse. The plan that he had sought to implement allegedly involved outsourcing, a dirty word in a state facing 7.9% unemployment. What Nunn’s attacks fail to mention is that Pillowtex was already massively in debt by the time Perdue arrived and that, shortly after his hire, an additional $40-50 million in additional pension liabilities was uncovered. Perdue has countered by highlighting his success as a job creator at Dollar General, where his aggressive growth strategy resulted in some 2,200 new stores.
And the Joe Biden Award for Excellence Goes to…: The Nunn campaign, for accidentally releasing an internal memo detailing their gameplan. In it, Democratic strategists discuss how they’ll combat charges that Nunn is “too liberal” by photographing her in front of rural settings, target Asians, gays and potentially Jews (her Israel policy is listed as “Message: TBD”) for fundraising, and attempt to squelch any nasty stories about Points of Light giving money to “inmates” and “terrorists”.
RINO Hunting: Perdue has expressed prior support for federal involvement in health care and has vowed to keep certain aspects of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law. “I’m not going to go up there and tell you I’m going to repeal Dodd-Frank,” Perdue told voters during the primary. “I will tell you I’m going to fight to amend it. And to do that, I think I can find some Democratic senators who will join in with logic and be led into a reasonable solution.”
Predictions:
  • New York Times: 67% Perdue
  • Washington Post: 79% Perdue
  • Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight: 75% Perdue