While almost all our attention is focused on the presidential race, holding onto the Senate is also critical this year. The following is info on the Senate races taking place in nearly half the states. Please note – this information is from August and some races have already been decided, such as John McCain winning reelection in Arizona.
The Republicans are set to defend 24 seats in 2016, compared to just 10 for Democrats. Of the 24 seats, 16 start off as Safe Republican. Most of these candidates have a history of winning by double-digit margins and come from red states. The likely safe seats are:
Alabama (Jeff Sessions)
Alaska (Lisa Murkowski)
Arkansas (John Boozman)
Georgia (Johnny Isakson)
Idaho (Mike Crapo)
Indiana (Dan Coats)
Iowa (Chuck Grassley)
Kansas (Jerry Moran)
Kentucky (Rand Paul)
Missouri (Roy Blunt)
North Carolina (Richard Burr)
North Dakota (John Hoeven)
Oklahoma (likely James Lankford)
South Carolina (Tim Scott)
South Dakota (John Thune)
Utah (Mike Lee)
Florida – Marco Rubio won’t run for the US Senate in 2016.
Louisiana – David Vitter lost his gubernatorial race, but has also stated he will not seek re-election. Outside of the Landrieu family, Democrats are short on big political names. Republicans should retain the seat easily with a solid candidate but it starts only as Lean Republican until a field starts to shape up.
New Hampshire – Kelly Ayotte won by an unexpectedly large 20+ point margin in a state carried twice by Barack Obama. She remains popular in the state and could very easily land into the safe column as we get closer to the election. She will be challenged by Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan.
Ohio – Rob Portman also won by a large margin in 2012, especially by swing-state standards. If he decides to run for President, he has stated he will not seek re-election to the US Senate. If he doesn’t run, 2012 nominee Josh Mandel has a decent shot to hold the seat for the GOP but it will be a fight.
Toss-up or Slight Democratic Lean:
Illinois – Mark Kirk defeated Barack Obama ally Alexi Giannoulias by less than 2-points in 2010. Though he will have the advantage of incumbency on his side, 2016 could be a much tougher playing field if the Republican nominee for President can’t make the state competitive. Tammy Duckworth is his likely opponent.
Pennsylvania – Pat Toomey won with 51% of the vote in 2010, but this was under the most favorable of conditions. The conditions will be much less favorable and the Democrats will try for a top-tier candidate in one of their few big pick-up opportunities. However, they have so far struggled to coalesce around a solid candidate.
Wisconsin – This is probably the most endangered seat, but that is primarily because Wisconsin is just a hard state to figure out. They’ve twice voted for both Barack Obama and twice voted for Governor Scott Walker, who may be the most conservative Governor in the country. Russ Feingold is challenging Ron Johnson for his old seat back.
It’s very possible that 2016 wind up very similar to 2012.
You can click here to see where the candidates stand on the issues, and click here to see how sitting senators voted on the issues. Lastly, you can click here to see how senators are graded on the conservative score cards. For example, Mike Lee of Utah has a score of 100% while Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski only rates at 50%.