Beyond Georgia: A ranked list of races to watch

The political world finally noticed Georgia this year, and if there’s a Senate runoff here with control of that body at stake, the political world may be headquartered here for a month-plus. But today, with as much as there is going on locally, some contests outside Georgia remain well worth our attention. Here’s my list, in order of priority for Republicans in my view. Warning: You will read a heavy dose of 2016 implications; get used to it, because starting tomorrow, 2016 will be lurking beneath every political story worthy of national attention.

1. WISCONSIN GOVERNOR: The incumbent, Scott Walker, is the only serious potential 2016 presidential candidate from either party who is on the ballot today. (You might add Paul Ryan to that list, although he’s in no danger of losing today and might not run for president in 2016.) Walker, who survived a recall election during his first term, is clinging to a narrow but perhaps widening lead in the polls. If he wins, he’s a two-term governor in a swing state with solid policy achievements under his belt. If he loses to Democrat Mary Burke, for the purposes of 2016 he’s a has-been. More important than his personal ambitions, though, from the GOP’s perspective, is how a loss for Walker would be spun. The biggest thing people know about his first term is that he limited collective bargaining for public-sector unions and made other changes for their employees, such as requiring them to contribute more to their pensions and health insurance. If he loses, the result may be cast as a repudiation of those changes, even though he already survived the recall attempt directly related to them. That could have an effect on the policy debate within the GOP primary as it concerns reforming the federal bureaucracy.

2. COLORADO SENATE: If the GOP is going to take control of the Senate, it needs to win a few close races in purple states. I could put states like Iowa or New Hampshire here, but I’ll go with Colorado for a few reasons. First, it’s an example where the GOP recruited a good candidate (Cory Gardner) and has built a small but steady lead over an incumbent Democrat (Mark Udall). Second, it’s a race where the Democrat’s rhetoric about the “war on women” appears to have failed utterly — a marked contrast with 2012, when two Republicans lost winnable states because of their comments about rape and abortion. Third, from the 2016 perspective, even though Iowa and New Hampshire are synonymous with presidential primaries, Colorado has almost as many electoral votes as the two of them combined. The GOP presidential nominee will almost have to win Colorado to have a chance of winning; the party wants to prove it can win there starting this year. For that last reason, the also-close Colorado governor’s race is worth watching, just not to the degree the Senate race is.

3. IOWA SENATE: See the foregoing about Colorado. Add the fact that Joni Ernst would add to the ranks of female Republican senators and could play a key role in the state’s caucuses as the 2016 nominating process gets under way. Although the race has been close, Ernst has had a consistent lead over Democrat Bruce Braley for more than a month. It would be a downer for Republicans if she were to lose.

4. FLORIDA GOVERNOR: Partly for practical reasons, partly for personal reasons. Particularly with a pair of high-profile Republicans from the Sunshine State mulling 2016 runs (Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio), control of the governor’s mansion in Tallahassee would be helpful in turning Florida red again (not that GOP governors in 2008 or 2012 helped in that regard). But it’s also personal because the Democrat is Charlie Crist, who previously was elected governor as a Republican, flamed out in a 2010 primary to Rubio, ran in that year’s general election as an independent, and is now running for the third time with the third affiliation in just two election cycles. Whatever the merits or demerits of Gov. Rick Scott, no Republican wants to see Crist come back from the political dead. The race is thought to be very close.

5. (tie) NEW HAMPSHIRE SENATE/NORTH CAROLINA SENATE: If the GOP wins either of these, it most likely will be a very good night for the party. If it wins both, it will be virtually impossible to deny talk of a GOP wave. Neither state is hostile to Republicans, but a month ago these were thought to be in the bag for Democratic incumbents Jeanne Shaheen and Kay Hagan, respectively. Now Scott Brown (NH) and Thom Tillis (NC) have closed the gap. These are also close to must-win states if the Republican nominee in 2016 is to have a chance of moving into the White House.

7. (tie) KANSAS GOVERNOR/SENATE: Unlike Thad Cochran in Mississippi, long-time incumbent Pat Roberts didn’t see an end to his troubles after he beat back a stiff primary challenge this year. A little trickeration by the Democrats — having their candidate drop out and throwing their support behind independent candidate Greg Orman — has Roberts on the ropes. But the Republican has made up a great deal of ground in the past month, nearly drawing even in the latest polls. His resurgence may end up rescuing Gov. Sam Brownback, whose tax overhaul wasn’t done by the book in that he tried to balance the budget less with spending cuts than with one-time revenue sources (the rating agencies don’t like those kinds of maneuvers). Kansas doesn’t always vote Republican in state races, but throwing out Brownback in favor of Democrat Paul Davis would prompt the narrative that this is what happens when Republicans lower income-tax rates — never mind the contrast between how Kansas did it and how states like North Carolina have gone about it.

9. ALASKA SENATE: This is a red state with a Democratic incumbent, but the GOP doesn’t necessarily need Dan Sullivan to unseat Mark Begich in order to take control of the Senate. This seat could, however, be the difference between a difficult majority of 51 and a more workable group of 53 or 54. Getting as wide a majority as possible this year will be key in 2016, when the GOP has more seats to defend than the Democrats (24-10).

10. (tie) KENTUCKY SENATE/VIRGINIA SENATE: At this point, neither seat seems likely to change hands (a Republican incumbent holds the former, a Democratic incumbent the latter). If Mitch McConnell somehow manages to lose to Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky, you won’t need to stay up for another result: It would signal the beginning of a terrible showing for the GOP. If Mark Warner somehow falls to Republican Ed Gillespie in Virginia, the reverse would be true. In either case, we’d be looking at one party losing a seat thought to be much safer than a toss-up. At that point, Katie bar the door.

(Note: This post has been edited to add the names of candidates left out when it was first published.)

Reader Comments 0

34 comments
RantNRave
RantNRave

"And you can't tell what Virginia's going to do"


WHINEY


BUT WE CAN TELL WHAT GEORGIA IS GOING TO DO.


AND THAT IS IF YOU CAN'T BEAT'EM........CHEAT'EM

IReportYouWhineTheGreat
IReportYouWhineTheGreat

Gillespie is running a heavy duty campaign over here, just laying it on warner. The most solid one I've seen run in a long time. We got two, count them, two, full size 4 page glossy color photo card stock brochures with the 97% obama policy voter number written all over them on Saturday. On the way to the polls today, they got eye level billboards by the side of the road, in all black color with white letters, that sez mark warner betrayed Virginia with his obamacare vote. It's just draws your eyes in and makes you read the message.


This needs to be implemented all over the damn country.


And you can't tell what Virginia's going to do, the last couple of elections, the polls were way off. Ask cantor about it.

IReportYouWhineTheGreat
IReportYouWhineTheGreat

The incumbent, Scott Walker, is the only serious potential 2016 presidential candidate from either party w̶h̶o̶ ̶i̶s̶ ̶o̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶b̶a̶l̶l̶o̶t̶ ̶t̶o̶d̶a̶y̶.̶


Corrected that^^ for ya.

Caius
Caius

One question is - are the voters throwing out incumbents regardless of party?  Exit poll results will be interesting.

RantNRave
RantNRave

"For the good of the country, Christ needs to lose in Florida and Walker needs to win in Wisconsin."


BU2


YOU ARE THE TYPICAL LOW INFO CON VOTER.


THE NAME IS...........CHARLIE CRIST.................NOT CHRIST !!!


GOOD LORD !!!



RantNRave
RantNRave

"I remember when Obozo won and all the libs said it was the will of the people and we need to get over it. I bet they would like to hear that tomorrow… LOL"


PUDHEAD


YOU CONS NEVER GOT OVER IT.


WHAT YOU CONS DID WAS UNLEASED THE DEMONS.


IF YOU CAN'T BEAT'EM......................................CHEAT'EM


CONS HAVE NO "MORAL COMPASS" SO HOW CAN THIS COUNTRY REBUILD


THE SOCIAL FABRIC?

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Charlie Crist, who previously was elected governor as a Republican, flamed out in a 2010 primary to Rubio,


"Flamed out", not sure whether that was intentional or not, but it is funny!   Turncoats never seem to prosper for long politically.  I remember 6 or so that changed parties in GA in the 80's or so, and most were never heard from again.  Sonny Perdue and Nathan Deal are the only two that come to mind as succeeding with the switchback.

HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

The blue wall is a powerful phalanx of 18 states and the District of Columbia that have voted for the Democrats in every single presidential election for 20 years -- six straight. Some states have been in the Democratic column even longer.


http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/03/opinion/gergen-blue-wall-republicans-2016/


With the Dem blue wall they have 242 electoral votes already in the bag...Just 28 shy of 270.


Add one state like Florida to the 18 ( 29 electoral votes ) and its already over.


2014 shapes up very nicely for the GOP..But any talk of a wave is just BS. They are just taking back states that road Obama's coattails to blue in 2008.


2016 is going to be very difficult for the GOP...Even worse than 2014 will turn out for the Dems...Especially if the GOP stays as dysfunctional as it has been lately.


to use a George W. Bushism: Republicans shouldn't mis-underestimate how tough 2016 it will be.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

Wait, with three "ties", this makes 13 races to watch ;) 


Not being familiar with all of these races, names of contenders would have helped out as well. 


Of course, the current "name doesn't matter as long as it's a 'D' or an 'R'" theme continues either way. 

PudHead
PudHead

I remember when Obozo won and all the libs said it was the will of the people and we need to get over it. I bet they would like to hear that tomorrow… LOL

bu2
bu2

For the good of the country, Christ needs to lose in Florida and Walker needs to win in Wisconsin.


Christ is just a political opportunist.  Walker took some difficult stands and the Democrats have been throwing every trick in the book to try to get him out of office instead of waiting until the end of the term.

stands_for_decibels
stands_for_decibels

starting tomorrow, 2016 will be lurking beneath every political story worthy of national attention.


oh, joy.

HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

@IReportYouWhineTheGreat Walker may not even get re-elected.


Odds are in a presidential race he wouldn't even win Wisconsin.


He has just a slightly better chance than me to be the next president.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Caius I'll go ahead and answer this: In 90-95% of the cases, no. They aren't.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@HeadleyLamar Sad, that those blue wall States are so partisan.  No party is always right or has all the answers, and sometime you need to just throw the rascals out.  It hurts America to be so rigid in your ideology.  Just another bunch of left wing extremists! 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@LogicalDude "Wait, with three "ties", this makes 13 races to watch ;)"

No, I skipped the number that should have followed each one with a tie.

"Not being familiar with all of these races, names of contenders would have helped out as well."

An oversight on my part. I'll try to fix that.

Tiberius-Constitutionus
Tiberius-Constitutionus

@PudHead 2016 will be more representative of the 'will of the people' than 2014's 'will of the (smaller group of more conservative states) people.' Hopefully the Dems and the Obozites will get over it quickly and look forward to the bigger prizes just ahead...

Tiberius-Constitutionus
Tiberius-Constitutionus

@bu2 Um, Walker shot himself in his right foot.  Then he shot himself in his left foot.  Then he shot himself in his left hand.  Then he had someone shoot him in his right hand.  The guy is the political equivalent of a 97-year old on life support with half a gallon of oxygen in the tank and no refueling in sight for a millennium.

Tiberius-Constitutionus
Tiberius-Constitutionus

Saint Reagan is no longer with us. To avoid extinction, it is best to look forwards.

HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

@RafeHollister @HeadleyLamar The Republicans have a red wall too.


It just isn't as high. It only gets them to 179


The Republicans have their own "red wall," and it actually includes more states: 21 plus a major chunk of Nebraska. They are the GOP bulwark, voting consistently for the Republican presidential nominee in each of the past four presidential elections. But they tend to have much smaller populations than the Democratic states so that they account for only 179 electoral votes -- 91 shy of 270, leaving a huge hill to climb. John McCain -- a valiant candidate in 2008 -- won the red wall but nothing else.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@HeadleyLamar @RafeHollister Smaller population till the exodus is over from the high tax blue states.  Maybe the red wall will have all the electoral votes after the folks get settled in here.  Blue states are consistently losing electoral votes.


Not that long ago Georgia had 9 congressmen, I believe we have 13 today.

Juanx
Juanx

@Kyle_Wingfield @Tiberius-Constitutionus  Lets start with union busting, then move on to lack of job creation (lowest rate for that part of the country), then move to, charges of comingling campaign funds, and an avowed supporter for policies set y the Koch brothers. Enacted voter suppression laws. This is just a few of Walkers'  policies and laws he signed. 

HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

@RafeHollister Yes.


And with the greater number of Congressman...The state gets bluer. As you are seeing in georgia

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Juanx Yes, "charges" that have been shot down for the most part when taken to court. Any politically motivated prosecutor can "charge" another politician with anything.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar Ten minutes of harmless boredom awaits anyone who listens to that. The reason it has such a shock-value headline ("Koch Whore!") must be because they hoped no one would listen to how mundane the whole thing actually was.