Elections in a handful of states Tuesday will determine which party controls the Senate — whether Nevada Sen. Harry Reid will retain his position as Majority Leader, or a Republican, likely Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell will wrest it away from him. Here’s a rundown of some of the states in play that could give one party or the other its critical 51st vote.
In the Nutmeg State, Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy faces off against Linda McMahon, the former wrestling mogul and co-founder of World Wrestling Entertainment, to replace the retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman. Murphy is favored, leading McMahon by several points in all but one poll taken over the past month.
McMahon lost to Richard Blumenthal by twelve points in 2010. But this year she put up a real fight, leveraging her personal fortune in August and September to put millions of dollars behind television ads defining Murphy before the not particularly well-known congressman could define himself. When Murphy raised enough money to buy TV ads himself, however, the scales began to tip back in his favor. Still, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has had to spend a fair amount of money in the state, something the party probably hadn’t planned to do.
In a state that President Barack Obama is expected to win by a wide margin, both candidates are cozying up to him. McMahon has endorsed Romney, but is running ads encouraging voters to split their ticket, even putting door-hangers on the doors of Obama voters encouraging them to vote for her and the president.
Murphy got some help from Obama last week when the president cut an ad for him — the only such ad he made for a 2012 senate candidate. Republicans called that a sign of desperation for a candidate who is under-performing in a Democratic state. Democrats called it “lights out for McMahon.”
Independent former Gov. Angus King is expected to coast to an easy victory Tuesday evening in a Senate race brought on when Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe abruptly announced her retirement this spring.
The three-way race also includes Republican Charlie Summers and Democrat Cynthia Dill.
King is widely expected to caucus with Democrats if he is elected — he has refused to say so specifically — and his entrance into the race deterred some stronger Democratic candidates from running. As a result, Democrats never endorsed Dill on a national level, and spent most of the cycle ignoring her candidacy altogether in a tacit nod of support for King.
The race briefly looked to be tightening in September when a poll showed Summers a mere eight points behind King. In the aftermath, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Crossroads GPS’s super PAC went up on the air supporting Summers. The DSCC countered with an unexpected run of ads attacking Summers, putting the party in the awkward position of playing in a race where it refused to acknowledge its own nominee.
But both parties pulled their ads off the air in October, as poll after poll showed King back in the lead by a wide margin.
Indiana is a red state, but Republican treasurer Richard Mourdock is running slightly behind Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly in recent polls. Mourdock will get a push from the rest of his ticket including presidential GOP hopeful Mitt Romney and Rep. Mike Pence, the favorite for governor. But it’s not clear how much of a push he will need.
Mourdock has run almost dead even with Donnelly for most of the race. But the two polls taken since the final debate, when Mourdock made a now-infamous comment about abortion in rape cases, have shown him trailing — suggesting that the constant pounding he has taken from Democrats since making that comment might be working.
The Mourdock campaign released internal poll data over the weekend showing him ahead by two points, and remains adamant that he is going to win on Tuesday.