By Jim Ellis
Sept. 21, 2018
Current US Senate makeup
— From the 35 US Senate in-cycle races it is clear that the major contests are narrowing to 16 competitive political battles. A 17th campaign, the one in California between Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) and state Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), is also competitive, at least to a degree, but since both candidates are Democrats the outcome will not alter the partisan composition. Therefore, the Golden State does not factor into the battle for the Senate majority.
Today, we look at eight of the races and provide a quick update on the latest developments. Concentrating on the 16, if Republicans win any four they will hold at least a bare majority.
The race between Reps. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) and Martha McSally (R-Tucson) has been flip flopping in the polls. Seven polls have been released in September. Rep. Sinema has led in five by an average of 3.4 percentage points. Rep. McSally took the lead in two surveys, with a mean of two percentage points.
A new independent group entitled Defend Arizona has launched a series of ads attacking Sinema that highlight previous statements advocating leniency for men who engage in child prostitution when the latter individual looks older than her age. How this line of attack will affect the race remains to be seen.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D) is facing the strongest challenge of his career from Gov. Rick Scott (R). This race has been frequently polled, and no September study gives either man a lead of more than two points. Three polls project a Scott lead of one or two points. One survey gives Sen. Nelson a one-point edge, and a fifth study finds the two candidates deadlocked in a flat tie at 49 percent apiece.
Some believe that Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s presence on the statewide ticket as the Democratic gubernatorial nominee will help Sen. Nelson, others believe it will hurt. Those arguing that Gillum helps say that he will increase minority turnout, and that Nelson will tangentially benefit because such voters would likely vote straight Democratic. Those believing Gillum is a negative indicate that he will be portrayed as being too far left, which could be an impetus to spur more conservatives to vote.
Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) faces former state representative and international businessman Mike Braun (R). Fox News conducted the only September poll in this race. Among likely voters, Braun had a two-point lead. But the registered voter universe tipped the scale toward Sen. Donnelly by a margin of just one point.
This is one more race that is a pure toss-up as we approach the last month of campaigning.