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Morning Line’s final Top 10 Senate races

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • New polls show control tipping toward Republicans
  • But there are lots of tight races, and control might not be known on Election Night.
  • Iowa and Kentucky races now appear to be further reaches for Democrats
  • Democrats defending nine of top 10

Tipping toward Republicans, but do they get over the top Tuesday night? Over the weekend, a rash of polls were released — all pointing to a Republican edge. There are still some key questions for Election Night. One big one — will it end on Election Night? Republicans need to net six seats to take control of the Senate. While they are favored to flip eight Democratic-held seats (see below), two races could head to runoffs (Georgia and Louisiana), one closes at 1 am EST (Alaska), and one incumbent Republican still has an even-money chance of losing (Kansas). On this Election Day Eve, here’s our final Morning Line Top 10, ranked according to who is most likely to flip. As always, our rankings are based on public and private polling, conversations with the campaigns and committees, and voting trends and demographics in the states. Parentheses indicate the incumbent and which party currently holds the seat. Democrats are defending nine of the top 10.

1. Montana (Open-D): Still No. 1.
2. West Virginia (Open-D): Polls continue to show a double-digit lead for Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito.
3. South Dakota (Open-D): Former Republican Gov. Mike Rounds is favored. Independent former Republican Sen. Larry Pressler likely peaked too soon.
4. Arkansas (Pryor-D): After a strong start to this race last spring, the state’s fundamentals may have caught up with incumbent Mark Pryor. He hasn’t led in a poll since September.
5. Louisiana (Landrieu-D): This race won’t be over Tuesday night. It’s heading to a Dec. 6 runoff. But Mary Landrieu continues to trail Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy in head-to-head matchups.
6. Iowa (Open-D): Republicans got another good sign in this race over the weekend with the gold-standard Iowa Poll, showing Joni Ernst not just up, but over 50 percent against Democrat Bruce Braley.
7. Alaska (Begich-D): This is a very difficult state to poll, so no one is quite sure how the race between incumbent Democrat Mark Begich and Republican Dan Sullivan will play out. But the fundamentals of the state and the national mood point to a Sullivan edge.
8. Colorado (Udall-D): This is one to watch Tuesday night. Republican Rep. Cory Gardner has led in every poll but one in October. Democrats insist their turnout operation will make up the single-digit margin, but that’s tougher to do in a midterm year and especially with Latinos upset with the Obama administration over a lack of movement on immigration policy.
9. Kansas (Roberts-R): Here’s the only Republican-held seat in the top 10, and it’s a nail-biter. Republicans have closed the gap for Pat Roberts, who’s served in Congress for 34 years, but independent Greg Orman has led in three of the last four polls, but within the margin of error. Republicans are hoping the red hue of this state puts Roberts back over the top.
10. North Carolina (Hagan-D): Kay Hagan has fared better than any of the red-state incumbent Democrats. She has been consistently up low-single digits over state House Speaker Thom Tillis. She hasn’t hit 50 in any polls, but she might not have to with the candidacy of Libertarian pizza guy Sean Haugh.

Others to note: Keep an eye on New Hampshire. It continues to creep tighter with Democrat Jeanne Shaheen clinging to a 49-48 percent lead in the latest WMUR/UNH poll out over the weekend. … Georgia continues to be a very tight race, but David Perdue appears to have edged ahead very slightly in the polls in the last week and a half. … Mitch McConnell appears to have built a substantial lead in the final days in Kentucky. NBC/Marist has him up 50-41 percent. Stu Rothenberg, in fact, moved the race from Lean Republican to Republican Favored.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1796, John Adams was elected the second United States President. Who served as his Vice President? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to anjaroo ‏(@thatdudeanjaroo) for guessing last Wednesday’s trivia: Where was President McKinley assassinated? The answer was: at the Pan-American Expo in Buffalo, N.Y.


  • President Obama’s approval rating among Tuesday’s likely voters is at 43 percent, and Republicans lead the generic ballot in the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll.

  • It’s bad news for Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley after the Des Moines Register’s final Senate poll shows Republican Joni Ernst up 7 percentage points over the Iowa Congressman. However, the latest Quinnipiac poll has Ernst and Braley tied 47-47 percent.

  • Braley, campaigning with Bill Clinton and retiring Sen. Tom Harkin this weekend, tried to cast the poll as an outlier.

  • As goes Iowa, so goes the Senate, according to Majority Leader Harry Reid, who told a Progressive Change Campaign Committee conference call that an Ernst win would make Sen. Mitch McConnell majority leader.

  • Democrat Michelle Nunn and Republican David Perdue faced off in the final Georgia Senate debate Sunday, following the release of a new NBC/Marist poll that has Perdue up by 4 percentage points over Nunn.

  • And in Louisiana, the NBC/Marist poll shows Sen. Mary Landrieu winning a three-way contest on Election Day with 44 percent of the vote, but trailing in a runoff.

  • Two new local polls show Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown neck and neck in the Senate race.

  • The latest Quinnipiac poll has former Gov. Charlie Crist up just one percentage point over current Gov. Rick Scott in Florida.

  • Courting black voters in Florida Sunday, Crist campaigned with Vice President Biden at a church, as did Gov. Rick Scott, who later rallied Hispanic voters with former Gov. Jeb Bush. Miami-Dade saw a 53 percent increase in early votes from Saturday to Sunday, the last day for in-person early voting.

  • Former President Bill Clinton continued his midterm tour Sunday with a stop in his home state of Arkansas to stump for embattled Sen. Mark Pryor and other Arkansas Democrats.

  • In the last of 45 appearances Hillary Clinton has made for midterm candidates over the past two months, she stumped for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Gov. Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire this weekend, marking her first return to the Granite State since the 2008 campaign.

  • The latest numbers from Public Policy Polling in Michigan show Republican Gov. Rick Snyder up only one point over his Democratic opponent former Rep. Mark Schauer.

  • Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., is fighting to the end to convince voters of his bipartisan ways, as the Virginia Senate race tightens in the last days of the midterms.

  • Outside spending in midterm races hit an average of at least $20 million a day last week, and much of it is coming last-minute from outside groups who hadn’t spent anything before October or who didn’t even exist at the beginning of this campaign.

  • Don’t expect Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to wear the same “team-player” hat he’s sported during this campaign if the GOP wins the Senate. He told the Washington Post he’ll work to make a Republican-controlled Senate just as conservative as the House, which means he’s not making any promises to support McConnell for majority leader.

  • Lobbyists, many of them former staffers, are flooding into Kentucky to help Mitch McConnell get out the vote in the remaining days of the campaign.

  • Registered Democrats outnumbered registered Republican early voters in Colorado on Saturday, narrowing the GOP advantage to 8 points. Younger voters and those who didn’t participate in 2010 also increased their turnout numbers, but those demographic boosts may still be too little too late for Democrats.

  • The Independent candidate in the Connecticut governor’s race dropped out suddenly on Sunday, and then endorsed Republican Tom Foley.

  • The Supreme Court will hear arguments next week in a case involving the makeup of Alabama’s voting districts. Opponents claim that legislators have made it too easy for African Americans to win in certain districts, which dilutes their influence in other areas.

  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie taunted Maryland Gov. “big loser” Martin O’Malley while campaigning for Larry Hogan in Baltimore Sunday night. His remarks came four days after earning negative press for telling a New Jersey resident protesting the state’s response to Hurricane Sandy to “sit down and shut up.”

  • A second sexual harassment claim has been made against Republican congressional candidate Carl DeMaio, this time involving a man who left the campaign on his own. The previous allegation came from a man who has been fired.

  • CDC security guard Kenneth Tate never expected to feel sad about the day he met the president. But it cost him, and maybe his son, their jobs.

  • Want to know what GOP lawmakers on the House Financial Services Committee are reading these days? Make an appearance (and a donation) at their book club to find out.

  • While you’re waiting for Alaska results Tuesday night, consider cueing Don Gonyea’s 2014 campaign playlist.

  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.


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