While polls are now beginning to show some distance between Senate candidates in several states, perhaps the biggest bombshell is the continued strong performance by West Virginia Republican John Raese (pronounced Ray-cee). Running against one of the most popular Governors in the nation in the bid to replace the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D), Raese, who has failed in previous statewide runs, has been surprisingly tenacious in the 2010 special election campaign. According to the latest Rasmussen Reports poll (10/5; 500 likely WV voters), the GOP challenger has now taken the lead over Gov. Joe Manchin. By a count of 50-44%, a spread beyond the margin of error, the Republican has a measurable advantage over the Democratic chief executive. This is largely due to Raese’s strong opposition to the Cap & Trade issue, which has devastating effects on the coal economy, and his linkage of Manchin to the Obama Administration and federal Democratic politics.
With what now appears to be a sure GOP loss in Delaware, a state they were counting on to make an improbable run for the majority, West Virginia could take its place in the national Republican formula. Democrats are still the favorites to retain control, and the GOP would need a perfect election night to gain the ten seats they need to overturn the Senate, but West Virginia may be one state that very well comes through for them on November 2nd.
As we enter the final month of the 2010 election cycle, the Senate races are beginning to fully define themselves.
We now believe that only three of the 37 campaigns can be labeled as pure toss-ups, down from five. The three are the Nevada race featuring Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid versus former state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, the Illinois open seat campaign with state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL-10) doing battle, and in West Virginia where Gov. Joe Manchin (D) and businessman John Raese (R) are locked in a much closer than expected special election campaign to succeed the late Sen. Robert Byrd.
Overall, Republicans now appear positioned to win 24 of the in-cycle Senate races compared to the Democrats’ ten. This would decrease the Democrats strength in the chamber to 50 with the three undecided campaigns still on the board. Republicans would gain a net of six seats under these calculations, bringing their total to 47.
Under this model the Democrats would retain the majority, but would have no more than 53 seats and as few as 50, depending upon the resolution of the Nevada and Illinois races.
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