Virginia: Former Gov. Tim Kaine (D) vs. Former Sen. George Allen (R) (Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., retiring)
Virginia represented one of the two best Republican pick-up opportunities among the seven closest states. Jim Webb had narrowly defeated George Allen in the 2006 Democratic wave election, and with Webb retiring, the seat was seen as ripe for the GOP, especially after the 2010 Republican sweep.
It hasn’t quite turned out that way. Former Democratic National Committee chair Tim Kaine has run a tough race, and holds a narrow lead in the RealClearPolitics average.
Kaine is considered the odds-on favorite at this point, but the race is still close enough to give Republicans hope. It seems unlikely, but this seat would seem to be a must-win if Republicans hope to wrest control of the Senate from Democrats.
Indiana: Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) vs. State Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) vs. Andrew Horning (Lib.) (Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., lost in primary)
This race was not on anyone’s radar when people first started looking at the map last year. That’s because it was considered a lock for Dick Lugar, who had been first elected to the Senate in 1976.
Lugar had a reputation as a tough-but-fair conservative who was willing to cross the aisle to get things done. In 2012, among Republicans, that represented a serious liability. Challenged from the right by State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, Lugar ended up losing his seat in the primary, opening up an opportunity for a Democratic pick-up.
Blue Dog Democrat Joe Donnelly traded leads with Mourdock in the polls throughout September and October with Mourdock holding the slight edge. The race took a sharp turn in late October, when Mourdock, during a debate, defended his opposition to abortion even in cases of rape and incest.
Saying that rape was “horrible,” Mourdock nonetheless added that when a woman beomes pregnant as a result of rape, that is “something God intended to happen.”
The comment was reminiscent of Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” statement, and instantly hurt Mourdock. Donnelly, who is pro-life, but favors exceptions for rape and incest, has led by between 3 and 11 percent in polls taken since. Polling is complicated somewhat by Libertarian Party challenger Andrew Horning, who has polled as high as 6 percent.
Needless to say, it becomes difficult for Republicans to retake the Senate should Mourdock lose. If so, this will represent yet another senate seat that Republicans sacrificed in a bid for ideological purity.
Read more: 2012 election, denny rehberg, elizabeth warren, george allen, Heidi Heitkamp, Jim Tester, joe donnelly, richard mourdock, Rick Berg, scott brown, senate, tammy baldwin, Tim Kaine, tommy thompson
Image Credit: Donkey Hotey
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