For those of you wondering which campaigns could benefit from some money in the last week of the election season, here’s a list of nine cusp Senate races, where a few extra dollars could make a difference:
Georgia: Saxby Chambliss has a very thin lead. It had been falling, but now it seems to be hovering around two or three points. This is a very winnable seat, but Obama-driven turnout could push Chambliss’s Democratic opponent over the finish line. Chambliss needs all the help he can get to ensure that this seat stays in Republican hands.
Minnesota: Norm Coleman‘s been locked in a really tight race with Al Franken. While he’s now trailing a few points, Coleman could definitely win. His brand of moderate, center-right politics and his willingness to cooperate in a bipartisan fashion give him a solid chance this year in Minnesota. He can appeal to independents and moderate Democrats while also bringing along the Republican mainstream (he’s recently been endorsed by the Star Tribune, which has also endorsed Obama). While various politicians and candidates have been trying to whip up a public frenzy, Coleman has shown a helpful calmness.
Mississippi: Roger Wicker has anywhere from a slim lead to a slightly more commanding one. He was appointed to fill Trent Lott’s Senate seat, so he’s not a fully planted incumbent yet. This seat should definitely stay in Republican hands, and some more help could ensure that.
North Carolina: Elizabeth Dole seems to be in some trouble, and, after enjoying slightly more substantial leads, she now trails her Democratic opponent by a little. According to Open Secrets, she doesn’t have that much cash on hand anymore. She’s massively outspent her Democratic opponent already, but maybe a little more money will make the difference.
New Hampshire: I’m probably a softy on John Sununu‘s chances, but New Hampshire is the land of political surprises, and Sununu’s the kind of candidate who really matches the free-spirited ethos of the Granite State. The Democrats have spent a lot of money on this race, and his opponent has something like a five-point lead at the moment. But Sununu’s a fighter and, on many issues, has been a real ally of the libertarian-right. He’s a fiscal moderate, a defender of privacy rights and the Second Amendment, and an opponent of reckless immigration plans. The Republican caucus would be well-served by Sununu’s victory in November.
Kentucky: Mitch McConnell‘s in a similar position to Dole in some ways. He’s outspent his Democratic opponent by a wide margin, but he now only has a small lead. As of September 30, he had about $5 million on hand (and his opponent had a lot less), so money might not be the most pressing issue for McConnell. But Kentucky is a place favorable to Republicans, and this seat is one the GOP really doesn’t want to lose. It’s defensible.
Louisiana: I’ll add John Kennedy‘s name here because he doesn’t have that much cash on hand right now and because this may be the GOP’s best hope for a pick-up. Sen. Landrieu has outspent him by a 3:1 margin, but he only trails her by about 10 points now. After a contentious debate, there may be an opening for Kennedy. If LA Gov. Bobby Jindal’s going to throw his political capital into this race and aggressively back Kennedy, this race could be a little closer than some recent polls suggest, and it could swing in the GOP’s direction. The least I can do is include his name on this list.
New Jersey: I’ll add Dick Zimmer‘s name here because I’m a dreamer. Two polls have now shown this to be less than a ten-point race, and Zimmer seems to be closing the gap with incumbent Dem. Sen. Lautenberg. Plus, there are two close House races in NJ (03 and 07); more Republican enthusiasm could help those candidates, too. Lautenberg’s outspent Zimmer by at least 9:1, and Zimmer doesn’t have that much cash on hand. If the race really is that close without much spending by Zimmer, even a small infusion of cash could translate into a big difference in popular support.
Oregon: This is a tough case. Gordon Smith used to be leading, but now he’s fallen behind. Though he’s massively outspent his Democratic opponent, he has never, in over a year of polling, enjoyed support above 50%. The Obama wave in Oregon might be too powerful for Smith to overcome, but he has a long track record as a moderate Republican survivor, and he has the backing of a number of newspapers (including the state’s largest). The fight’s not over in Oregon yet.
UPDATE: See also Why Congress Matters.