Senate Race Update: Northeast

Senate Race Update: Northeast

CT & MA remain close ... ME & NJ less so

As covered in this space before, the Northeast is providing an unexpected treasure-trove of interesting U.S. Senate races.

The race in Massachusetts was always expected to be tight, with incumbent Sen. Scott Brown (R) relying on his likeability and appeal, and law professor Elizabeth Warren (D) counting on the strong partisan edge and liberal tilt to the state.

Polls in the Bay State continue to vary, but while it appeared for a time that Warren might take a solid, if narrow lead, it now appears that the race is close to dead-heat mode (although probably with Warren slightly ahead).

Brown launched his long-expected challenge to Warren's use of alleged Native American ancestry to portray herself as a "person of color," and, while it may have contributed to making a dent in her lead, it did not appear to propel Brown back into the lead.  Most voters had probably already processed the allegations.

But ... Brown closed fast the first time he ran for the seat, and many forget that Mitt Romney himself trailed in the polls in September and October when he ran for Massachusetts governor in 2002, before finishing strong to win by 50-45.  Romney and Brown share some of the same Massachusetts operatives.  Coincidentally or not, the Democrat nominee in Romney's 2002 race and each of Brown's races has been female.  In each case, independent voters broke to the GOP candidate.  So will history repeat?

RealClearPolitics.com Average: Warren 48.5%, Brown 46.0%

New York Times forecast: Warren 82% chance of winning

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The race in Connecticut for the seat of retiring independent Democrat Joe Lieberman also remains close.  Rep. Chris Murphy (D) has been unable to shake the persistent and well-funded campaign of businesswoman and 2010 Senate nominee Linda McMahon.

Even polls showing Murphy in the lead have not shown him in particularly strong position, but voters appear to be a bit reluctant to enthusastically embrace McMahon, whose family made its fortune from the decidedly lowbrow pro-wrestling business, in which sometimes McMahon herself appeared with her ringmaster husband Vince.

Most observers feel the state's Democratic leanings will kick in for Murphy, but it's been a much longer slog than expected.

RCP Average: Murphy 47.0%, McMahon 44.0%

New York Times forecast: Murphy 74% chance of winning

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Maine is the oddball race -- as detailed in this space -- in which the Democrats hope to win by not having the Democrat win.  The party has "officially unofficially" embraced independent candidate Angus King, former independent governor, with the hope/expectation that he will caucus as a Democrat once in Washington.

That means "not trying too hard" to elect the actual Democrat in the race, State Sen. Cynthia Dill.  So far, it appears to be working.  King has led in every poll.

GOP efforts to make the race more partisan and lure the Democrats into open betrayal of Dill came close (Republican nominee Attorney General Charlie Summers narrowed the gap in one poll to eight points), but King appears to have weathered the storm and shows no signs of dropping below 40%, which is where he would have to drop for Summers to make an effective challenge, and Democrats show no sign of embracing Dill's forlorn campaign.

RCP Average: King 46.0%, Summers 30.7%, Dill 13.3%

New York Times forecast: King 90% chance of winning

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Finally, New Jersey has always been just a bit on the radar, due to the role of popular Gov. Chris Christie in the campaign of his protege State Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R) against incumbent Sen. Robert Menendez (D).

Menendez has never been wildly popular, and Kyrillos and Christie hoped to mount a meaningful challenge.

It has not happened, yet, but Christie is making a late push, and it's possible that a strong gust of national wind at the Republican's back could bring about an upset.  Supposedly, it was "the plan" for Christie to wait until late in the game to make major campaign appearances for Kyrillos, although some observers wonder what they were waiting for.

With Romney making major strides among independents since the first presidential debate, and Christie already strong with that group, it's possible that Kyrillos could benefit, but it seems late in the day to make up his apparent deficit.

RCP Average: Menendez 52%, Kyrillos 36%

New York Times forecast: Menendez 98% chance of winning