A short analysis of five close races that could determine whether the Republicans maintain control.
WASHINGTON – Five hotly contested U.S. Senate races could determine whether Republicans maintain control of the Congress’ upper chamber come January.
The GOP currently occupies 54 seats and the Democrats control 44. Two senators are officially designated as independent but still caucus with the Democrats.
A total of 34 seats are up for grabs on Tuesday, but only a handful of those contests are considered competitive.
Below is a snapshot of five hotly contested races:
Pennsylvania – Republican Sen. Pat Toomey faces a tough re-election opponent in Democratic challenger Katie McGinty. Most recent polls had contended that the two candidates were virtually tied but a recent CNN/ORC survey released on Wednesday showed McGinty leading Toomey 51 percent to 46 percent among potential KeyStone State voters. The CNN/ORC poll also showed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton leading Republican nominee Donald Trump 48 percent to 44 percent among potential Pennsylvania voters.
Toomey has neither endorsed Trump nor joined the “Never Trump” movement.
New Hampshire – Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte narrowly trails sitting Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan in a rather contentious re-election bid. A WMUR/University of New Hampshire survey released on Oct. 31 showed Hassan leading Ayotte 44 percent to 43 percent among potential Granite State voters. Ayotte previously trailed Hassan by nearly double-digits. The WMUR poll also showed Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump 45 percent to 38 percent among potential New Hampshire voters.
Ayotte, widely considered a moderate, recently garnered significant criticism when she suggested that Trump might be a good role model for her daughter. The freshman senator retracted that statement following the Oct. 7 release of a 2005 video depicting Trump describing in graphic detail how his financial prowess has allowed him to behave in a sexually aggressive manner toward women.
Shortly after the video was released The New York Times published a story featuring two women who alleged that they had previously been groped by Trump. To date about a dozen women have publicly accused the real estate mogul of sexual misconduct.
Florida – Former GOP presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio has a miniscule lead over Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy according to a CNN/ORC survey released on Nov. 2. That poll showed 49 percent of potential Sunshine State voters favored Rubio compared with 48 percent who said they preferred Murphy. The CNN/ORC poll also showed Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump 49 percent to 47 percent among potential Florida voters.
Rubio previously suggested that he would not seek re-election to the Senate but is believed to have reconsidered after prodding by party leaders. The freshman senator has reluctantly supported Trump’s candidacy and has on occasion criticized the real estate mogul’s more controversial comments.
North Carolina – Republican Sen. Richard Burr has a single-digit lead over Democratic Rep. Deborah Ross, according to an Elon University survey released on Nov.1. That poll showed Burr leading Ross 43.5 percent to 40 percent among potential Tar Heel State voters. The Elon poll also showed Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump by less than one percentage point among potential North Carolina voters.
Burr is chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and is seeking a third-term to Congress’ upper chamber. The senator recently faced severe criticism following the release of an audio recording provided to CNN acquired from a campaign event in which Burr referred to a gun magazine he saw in a firearm store that featured a picture of Hillary Clinton on the cover. The senator jokingly exclaimed that the cover photo was missing a “bull’s eye.” He apologized for the remarks shortly after.
Wisconsin – Republican Sen. Ron Johnson is virtually tied with Democratic challenger and former senator Russ Feingold, according to a Marquette Law School survey released on Wednesday. That poll showed 45 percent of potential Badger State voters favored Feingold compared with 44 percent who said they preferred Johnson. Feingold previously led Johnson by double-digits. The Marquette poll also showed Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump 46 percent to 40 percent among potential Wisconsin voters.
Johnson is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. He shocked most political pundits in 2010 when defeating Feingold, who had served four terms in the Senate.