GOP Clawing Back in Key Senate Races

A surge of negative advertising has put the Republicans back in the lead in the Virginia and Tennessee Senate races and with a fighting chance in several other key contests.

In Virginia, incumbent Republican Sen. George Allen stopped losing ground after he was accused of racial insensitivity and went on the attack against his Democratic opponent, James Webb, in part charging that Webb was insensitive to women in the military.

In Tennessee, Republican candidate Bob Corker fired top campaign staff and went on the attack against his Democratic rival, Rep. Harold Ford.

While many analysts and insiders of both major parties expect the Republicans to lose control of the House of Representatives, the Senate remains a close contest. Control of either house of Congress is crucial to passing legislation, while the Senate has sole power to confirm appointments to the federal judiciary, including the Supreme Court.

The polls revealed a slightly shifting landscape in recent weeks, with Democrats consolidating leads in several states but Republicans not only clawing back in Tennessee and Virginia but also narrowing their gap in Montana, all but given up as lost by national Republican leaders. Of the nine key battleground states, Republicans are ahead in two and within the polls’ 4 percentage-point margin of error in three more.

RealClear Politics has the following breakdown based on polling averages:


MO: Talent* vs McCaskill
NJ: Kean vs Menendez*
TN: Corker vs Ford
VA: Allen* vs Webb
MD: Steele vs Cardin
MI: Bouchard vs Stabenow*
MT: Burns* vs Tester
OH: DeWine* vs Brown
PA: Santorum* vs Casey
RI: Chafee* vs Whitehouse
MN: Kennedy vs Klobuchar
WA: McGavick vs Cantwell*
AZ: Kyl* vs Pederson
CT: Lieberman* vs Lamont

Click the links for a detailed breakdown of the current polling, candidate bios, current news, and other information related to each contest.

The overall trend is bad news for the Republicans. A loss of five seats is huge by any reasonable measure. Still, that would still leave them in control.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Supreme Court, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Kent G. Budge says:

    The overall trend is bad news for the Republicans. A loss of five seats is huge by any reasonable measure. Still, that would still leave them in control.

    The real bad news is that negative campaigning still works, for both sides. It is a strong disincentive for anyone who values his own good name to run for public office.

  2. To put this in perspective, the GOP is at a 75 year high in both house and senate seats. A 5 seat senate loss would put them back roughly 5 years.

    There are also 5 to 7 senate races where better recruiting could have made a world of difference. If the GOP had recruited the right set of candidates, we would be talking about breaking even or even gaining seats. I think the 2008 recruiting season is likely to be much stronger for the simple reason that the Senate seats can draft off the national campaign. If the dems do take the house, they will be having to defend some GOP leaning districts (e.g. TX-22 if it falls).

    The macro trend is still towards the GOP. If you look at what they need to do (getting back to basics on smaller government) vs what the dems need to do (become trust worthy on national security) the GOP has an easier time of turning around short term set backs. That said, they do need to do the work.