By Jim Ellis
July 12, 2016 — The US Senate campaigns have attracted a great deal of attention in this election cycle, and they are likely to gain even more as the election cycle progresses. Along with the presidency, control of the legislative chamber is at stake and either party can claim a national victory.
At this point, 11 races are in the Toss-up, Lean Republican, or Lean Democratic categories. Interestingly, except for the New Hampshire campaign, the races appear to fall into five neat pairs. Therefore, the following couplings help us view the national Senate picture:
• Illinois and Wisconsin: Incumbent Republicans Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) are clearly in the most vulnerable of political positions. Both senators trail their Democratic opponents, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-8) and former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), respectively, in all polls. The Illinois voting patterns are decidedly Democratic, and particularly so in presidential years, and Kirk is behind by mid-single digits in every public poll. It is possible his margin worsens.
The Wisconsin numbers are more erratic, with Sen. Johnson recently trailing from between one to 11 points. It is clear that these two states are the top Democratic conversion opportunities, and both must be won if the party is to re-take the majority they lost in the 2014 election.