These 12 battleground U.S. Senate races take place in a country deeply discontented with the state of the country, all national leaders, and political parties. With 10 of 12 seats held by Democrats but won by Romney by 8 points in 2012, this will be a competitive year to be sure. Nevertheless, Democratic incumbents and challengers are out-performing Obama in these states, while Democratic intensity matches that of Republicans, and the U.S. Senate vote numbers suggest the parties could well split these seats, putting the Senate at close to 50 for either party.
The Republican Senate candidates have a 3-point advantage, 46 to 43 percent in the Senate generic ballot – still within the margin of error, but perhaps an edge. But Romney carried these states by 8 points, so the Democratic candidates are running better than Obama despite massive advertising campaigns to link them to Obama and to attack them for ‘Obamacare.’ That is not a bad result and the question of control is far from settled.
But U.S. Senate races usually break toward one of the parties: the President’s standing here makes a Republican break more likely, while the standing of the Republican Party and Republicans in Congress could produce a break the other way.
- Democratic and Republican partisans are equally intent on voting in the battleground. The national pattern of reduced voter enthusiasm and turnout prospects, particularly among Democratic base voters, may be offset in the Senate battleground where stakes are high and campaigning is intense.
- President Obama is weak in these states, particularly on the economy: 38 percent approve of his performance, falling to 33 percent among Independents. Approval of Obama’s performance on the economy is slightly lower and Republicans have a 10 point advantage over Democrats on handling the economy.
- But the Republican Party is also very weak and is a serious liability even in these Red states. In these Romney states, voters have more favorable views of Senate Democrats and its leadership than they do of Senate Republicans and Republican leadership in the House. While just a third (32 percent) approve of the way Democrats are handling their job in the Senate, just a quarter (25 percent) approve of the way Republicans are handling their job in charge of the House – the leaders defining Congress and public perception of Washington gridlock.
- Intense doubts about House Republicans and GOP governors could play a role. Many of the Republican candidates have come out of the House of Representatives or played a big role in Republican-controlled states where voters have turned on the governors. Indeed, President Obama’s approval is higher than Jindal’s in Louisiana.
- Fate of the middle class is stronger ground than the economy. Republicans have an advantage on the economy—but critically not on the middle class. The parties are at parity in this battleground on who would do best for the middle class.
- What Obamacare liability? The Republicans have just a 3-point edge on health care in this Republican battleground, and just 46 percent oppose the law because it is big government. Every minute Republicans spend on repealing the Affordable Care Act is a minute they are not addressing the economy.