Monday, August 20, 2012

Senate Races Remain Close in West

Republicans need to pick up four seats to take control of the Senate (or one less if they win the vice presidency), and two of their most competitive races are in the West – Montana and New Mexico. Also, they must hold two seats that will have considerable Democratic competition – Arizona and Nevada.

Tiny Montana, one of a handful of states with a single congressional district, has major battles for both senate and governor.

Incumbent, first-term Senator Jon Tester will have a tough re-election primarily because President Obama could lose the state by up to 10 points.  President Obama campaigned hard here in 2008 and got 47 percent of the vote.  The campaign has not targeted the state this year.

Tester is a moderate Democrat with more than a million dollar campaign fund in a state with low-cost media.  Republican Congressman Denny Rehberg just won a long primary race and should quickly re-fund his bank account with out-of-state contributors.

The open seat for governor is considered one of the most competitive in the country.  Rick Hill, fresh from a primary win, will be a tough opponent to Democratic Attorney General Steve Bullock.  Similar to the Senate, this will be an expensive race for a small state with a lot of out-of-state money.

Incumbent Senator Dean Heller has been ahead in polling and appears confident against Las Vegas Representative Shelley Berkley, who is dealing with a House Ethics Committee investigation.

Although the Washington senate race appears an easy win for incumbent Democrat Maria Cantwell, races for governors have been close in recent years, and another tight race is expected, with an advantage for the Democrats due to a likely Obama win.

Former Democratic Representative Jay Inslee is running neck-to-neck with Rob McKenna, GOP Attorney General.  Recent polls have put Inslee ahead, but both candidates are well-funded.

Arizona’s late primary (August 28) may yet offer a surprise, but if Jeff Flake wins the race for Republican Senator Jon Kyl’s seat, Republicans will have their strongest candidate.  Wil Cardon is Flake’s self-financed opponent.  Because of the closeness of this year’s presidential race and President Obama’s tighter funding picture, early talk about targeting Arizona has faded.  Democratic candidate Richard Carmona will likely face a difficult pick-up.

New Mexico
Democrats want to retain the seat of retiring Senator Jeff Bingaman.  The race is between Democratic Representative Martin Heinrich and former Representative Heather Wilson.  The polling has been close, as has fundraising.  Obama should win the state, helping Heinrich.

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