The Hill: Democrats favored to keep control of the Senate

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By Cameron Joseph and Josh Lederman

Democrats’ outlook for keeping control of the Senate has slightly improved, according to an analysis by The Hill, largely due to Sen. Dick Lugar’s (Ind.) defeat at the hands of Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R), a Tea Party favorite, in the Republican primary.

Lugar would have been all but unbeatable in a general election, while a match-up between Mourdock and Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), two little-known candidates, is less predictable. While the state remains heavily Republican-leaning, Donnelly has some centrist credentials and held onto his House district in the 2010 Republican wave year. Plus, Mourdock has taken enough hard-right positions that he’s vulnerable to Democratic attacks. The Hill moves this race to a “toss-up.”

The Hill lists seven additional races as toss-ups, meaning Republicans have a fighting chance to reclaim the majority going into November. 

Republicans could have an opportunity in Wisconsin, largely because former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R), the GOP's best chance at winning the seat, looks to be more secure in his primary race now that big-spending businessman Eric Hovde (R) has jumped in and further split the conservative anti-Thompson vote.

Wisconsin has been moved from “lean Democratic” to “toss-up."

Republicans also could pick up Nebraska's Senate seat. All polls there show former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) starting off as a huge underdog to hold retiring Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D-Neb.) seat for his party, regardless of which of the three Republicans wins the primary. This races moves from “lean Republican” to “likely Republican.”

But Democrats have improved their lot elsewhere. 

In North Dakota, former state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp (D) has proven to be a formidable candidate, even in a conservative-leaning state. Although little polling has been released in the race, Heitkamp appears to have narrowed the gap on Rep. Rick Berg (R-N.D.). The race moves from “lean Republican” to “toss-up.”

The Hill, therefore, projects Republicans are likely to pick up one to three seats, leaving them just short of the four seats needed to retake control of the Senate if President Obama wins reelection.

These ratings and projections will be updated throughout the campaign cycle. The full Senate ratings are below. Ratings for the House are available on The Hill’s Ballot Box blog under the race rating category.

The Hill's 2012 Race Ratings: Senate

Likely Democratic

Lean Democratic

Toss-Up

Lean Republican

Likely Republican

CT: OPEN (Lieberman)

FL: Nelson (D)

IN: Open (Lugar)

AZ: OPEN (Kyl)

NE: OPEN (Nelson)

MN: Klobuchar (D)

HI: OPEN (Akaka)

MA: Brown (R)

 

 

NJ: Menendez (D)

ME: OPEN (Snowe)**

MO: McCaskill (D)

 

 

PA: Casey (D)

MI: Stabenow (D)

MT: Tester (D)

 

 

WV: Manchin (D)

NM: OPEN (Bingaman)

NV: Heller (R)

 

 

 

OH: Brown (D)

ND: OPEN (Conrad)

 

 

 

 

VA: OPEN (Webb)

 

 

 

 

WI: OPEN (Kohl)

 

 

*Bold indicates a seat projected to switch parties.

**Former Maine Gov. Angus King (I) is expected to caucus with Democrats if elected.

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