U.S. Senate – March 2016 Update
Republicans currently hold 54 seats and must defend 10 of the 12 most competitive seats up for election, creating a major challenge to holding the Senate. Illinois, Wisconsin, Florida, and New Hampshire are Republican seats characterized as Tossup or Tilt Democrat. Democrats are defending two vulnerable seats, Colorado and Nevada, though only Nevada is considered a Tossup.
The table below summarizes and aggregates ratings for the 12 most competitive Senate races of 2016. It utilizes the four most recognized, nonpartisan political newsletters to paint a complete picture of each race.
- The Florida Senate election for Marco Rubio’s open seat is already one of the most competitive races in the country. With approximately six months until the primary, Republicans have four major candidates and Democrats have two. Patrick Murphy has long been the Democratic establishment favorite in the race, and has received the endorsement of President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. This race is rated Tossup.
- In New Hampshire, Kelly Ayotte’s campaign went on the air with the state’s first ad of the 2016 Senate race. Ayotte spent $300,000 on the 10-day ad featuring her daughter and highlighting her roles as a wife and mother. Ayotte and Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan have been trading barbs on the trail, with Hassan focusing on the Senate’s unwillingness to hold a vote on a new Supreme Court Justice. This race is rated Tossup.
- In Nevada, Republican Sharron Angle is still testing the waters despite the primary only being three months away. Unless Angle joins the race, Republican Joe Heck will face off against Catherine Cortez Masto in November. A February Gravis Marketing poll commissioned by One America News Network shows Joe Heck narrowly beating Cortez Masto 44 percent to 41 percent, with 15 percent undecided. The poll also found Cortez Masto beating Angle 46 percent to 33 percent, with 21 percent undecided. This race is rated Tossup.
- Illinois’ March 15 primary will likely bring few surprises. Rep. Tammy Duckworth and Chicago Urban League President Andrea Zopp have taken to the airwaves. Frontrunner Tammy Duckworth’s ad focused on her service in the Iraq War and Congress before turning to her progressive agenda. Zopp’s ad focuses on her career as a prosecutor and her promise to focus on gun control as a Senator. Despite these ads, a recent poll from Southern Illinois University shows Duckworth with a massive lead, winning 52 percent to Zopp’s six percent. Republican Mark Kirk faces only nominal opposition in the primary. This race is rated Tilt Democrat.
- Pennsylvania Republican incumbent Pat Toomey remains unopposed for renomination as the Democrats’ three-way primary heats up. Toomey is facing a tough reelection. The Democratic primary is wide open. A poll found former Rep. Joe Sestak leading former aide to Gov. Tom Wolf Katie McGinty 21 percent to 12 percent. Braddock Mayor John Fetterman had just eight percent. This F&M College poll was conducted before Martin O’Malley’s surprise endorsement of John Fetterman. This race is rated Leans Republican.
- In November, incumbent Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson will face off against former Senator Russ Feingold. A February Marquette poll showed Feingold beating Johnson by a comfortable 49 percent to 37 percent margin. Marquette polls frequently skew Democrat early. These numbers should tighten by this fall. Still, Johnson is considered one of the two most endangered Republicans in the Senate. This race is rated Tilt Democrat.
- Indiana Republican Todd Young will remain on the ballot to face Rep. Marlin Stutzman in the Republican primary after the Indiana Democratic Party, later joined by Stutzman, challenged Young’s campaign, claiming he did not collect enough valid signatures from the highly Democratic First Congressional District. The Republican primary is a two-man race after Eric Holcomb dropped his Senate bid in early February to become Governor Mike Pence’s running mate and current Lieutenant Governor. This race is rated Likely Republican.
- Ohio Republican incumbent Rob Portman does not have any serious challengers in the state’s March 15 primary, and the race on the Democratic side may be all but over. President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden endorsed former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland over his opponent, Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld. A mid-January poll showed Strickland leading the primary, 61 percent to Sittenfeld’s 10 percent. While Portman is running a strong, well-funded race, general election polling points to a close race. This race is rated Lean Republican.
- State Attorney General Kamala Harris received the official endorsement of the California Democratic Party on February 28th. Rep. Loretta Sanchez believes she still has a path forward and will compete in the June 7th jungle primary with hopes of making the general election. This race is rated Safe Democrat.