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We are now officially less than 48 hours away from the first polls closing in the 2012 election cycle.  While most eyes will breathlessly be awaiting the results of the race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney for the Presidency, the Senate is also at stake.

As of right now, the Democratic Party has a slim majority of 53 (counting Independents Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut) to the Republicans 47 but it seems like there could be a potential shift in the numbers of the Senate.

Without much further adu, here’s the Pollitics Today forecast on the races that will decide the outcome of the Senate.

Arizona

The retirement of longtime GOP Senator Jon Kyl made this seat a potential pickup for the Democrats.  The Republican Party chose US Rep. Jeff Flake as it’s nominee while the Democrats opted to go with former Surgeon General, Richard Carmona.  While Flake had the advantage of name recognition, there was a point in early October in which Carmona actually had a slight edge in polling.  While this race still has potential to be close, we might have to give this seat to Flake.

Result:  Retained Republican seat.
What To Expect?:  Jeff Flake has a slight Libertarian streak when it comes to some topics such as earmarks and privacy.  There will be a few times where he breaks the party line to vote with Democrats, a la Rand Paul to the point where you would not be shocked to see a potential 2018 challenger in the Republican primary to Flake.
Final Result:  Flake – 53%, Carmona – 45%, Others – 2%

California

Senator Dianne Feinstein might be a little moderate for the California Democratic Party but she is a safe bet to win re-election against Republican challenger and Autism advocate, Elizabeth Emken.  Much hay was made about Feinstein finishing below 50% in the state’s new “jungle primary”, but she is still a safe bet to win another re-election. Still, while the victory will be a likely double-digit blowout; it won’t be as big as one would expect against a weaker opponent.

Result:  Retained Democratic seat.
What To Expect?:  The usual Feinstein voting record with the occasional thorn-in-the-side for the party’s liberal base.
Final Result:  Feinstein – 58%, Emken – 42%

Connecticut

Former Democrat-turned-Independent-turned-Democratic annoyance Joe Lieberman is retiring his seat.  While Lieberman, the 2000 Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, was a longtime Democratic voice; he burned plenty of bridges in his party after endorsing John McCain in 2008.

The Democrats nominated Rep. Chris Murphy while the Republicans nominated 2010 challenger, Linda McMahon.  Much like the Arizona race, there was a time where McMahon had the slight edge over her more progressive challenger.  After pumping in millions upon millions into the race, McMahon started to fade as Murphy’s campaign started to kick into gear.  This seat is now Murphy’s to lose.

Result:  Retained Democratic seat.
What To Expect?:  Technically the Democrats are “gaining” a seat in terms of the seat not being occupied by an Independent but the difference between Murphy and Lieberman is lengthy.  Murphy will instantly establish himself as one of the more liberal voices in the Senate and party loyalists will support him following the party line.  Republicans will end up wanting to target him in 2018 but he might be entrenched in the more blue state.
Final Result:  Murphy – 54%, McMahon – 46%

Delaware

Democratic Senator Tom Carper will easily win this seat.

Result:  Retained Democratic seat.
What To Expect?:  Safe Democratic vote.  Will be 71 at the conclusion for re-election in 2018, does this seat belong to Beau Biden then?
Final Result:  Carper – 71%, Kevin Wade – 29%

Florida

One of the biggest potential pickups for the Republican Party was the Florida seat of Democratic senator Bill Nelson.  Nelson, who is more on the “moderate” side of the Democratic Party wasn’t hugely popular in the Sunshine State but the Republican Party had some trouble recruiting a top-tier challenger.

After a public waffling on running or not, Rep. Connie Mack IV decided to jump into the fray in the race to challenge Nelson.  Mack IV’s campaign was lackluster and that will likely end up costing the GOP a seat that they had a slight shot at winning.

Result: Retained Democratic Seat.
What To Expect?:  Usual moderate, pro-business Nelson voting record.
Final Result:  Nelson – 54%, Mack IV – 46%

Hawaii

Retiring senator Daniel Akaka, left this state a potential grab for the Republican Party so they nominated former Gov. Linda Lingle as their nominee.  The Democrats, on the other hand, had a tight race between Rep. Mazie Hirono against former Rep. Ed Case in which the more progressive Hirono won out.

The race though never really flared up as competitive as Hawaii’s dark blue lean gives them an inherent advantage.  Lingle was popular enough to be a decent recruit for the GOP, but it just won’t be enough.

Result:  Retained Democratic Seat.
What To Expect?:  Hirono becomes another safe Democratic vote who should easily win re-elections based on party, barring any major scandal.
Final Result:  Hirono – 57%, Lingle – 43%

Indiana

Now here is one of the major states to watch when it comes to the state’s Senate race. This seat has been safely held by veteran Republican Dick Lugar since 1976.  However Lugar, who occasionally broke the party line on key votes, was challenged by State Treasurer Richard Mourdock from the right.  Mourdock, who was trailing in polls for a majority of the campaign, eventually pulled ahead and defeated Lugar.

The Democrats nominated Rep. Joe Donnelly, a Blue Dog, to the seat but with the loss of Lugar; the race became a true toss-up.

Mourdock looked like he would be able to squeak out a mid-single digits lead until he said the infamous “rape is God’s intention” line.  Since then, the seat has looked like a new pickup opportunity for the Democrats.

We will call this for Donnelly now, but there is a slightly relevant third party candidate in the running, Libertarian Andrew Horning which makes the race all more interesting.

Result:  DEMOCRATIC PICK UP.
What To Expect?:  Donnelly instantly becomes a Joe Manchin-esque thorn in the side for the Democratic Party.  He will buck the party line on some social issues (such as abortion) and is more fiscally moderate than his party.  However, while he might vote 65% with the party, he will vote 65% more Democratic than a Senator Mourdock would have.
Final Result:  Donnelly 48% – Mourdock 46% – Horning 6%

Maine

Outside of maybe New Hampshire, Maine is the most “purple” state in New England.  This seat has been held by moderate Republican Olympia Snowe and while there were whispers of a primary challenge to her, it never surfaced.  Still Snowe shocked the political world by announcing her retirement citing issues with bipartisanship (or the lack thereof).

Democrats instantly sniffed a pick-up opportunity and it looked like Rep. Chellie Pingree would be the future Senator of Maine.  However, former Governor and Independent Angus King tossed his hat in the ring and instantly became the likely favorite and the de facto Democratic candidate (with his support of President Obama and environmental issues).

Pingree didn’t run and Cynthia Dill threw her hat into the ring to become the Democratic candidate but will likely finish in the low double digits.  Republican Secretary of State Charlie Summers won the Republican nomination and mounted a decent challenge to King but likely to no avail.

Result:  INDEPENDENT PICK UP.  Likely caucuses with Democrats.
What To Expect?:  
King becomes the new Lieberman of the Senate and while he mostly votes with Democrats, he does become a pariah on certain issues.  Some Democrats will wish he didn’t run and the bad might outweigh the potential good.
Final Result:  King – 51%, Summers – 36%, Dill – 11%, Others – 4%

Maryland

Ben Cardin will easily win re-election but there is a battle for first loser between Independent S. Rob Sabhani and Republican Daniel Bongino.

Result:  Retained Democratic Seat.
What To Expect?:  The usual Cardin voting record.
Final Result:  Cardin – 54%, Bongino – 27%, Sobhani – 19%

Massachusetts

Scott Brown, the Republican who won a 2010 special election to replace the late Ted Kennedy, is one of the most endangered politicians in the country this election cycle.  Massachusetts’s long liberal history made him the #1 target of the non-Presidential 2012 candidates, and the Massachusetts Democratic Party nominated progressive rock star, Elizabeth Warren as its candidate.

The race, which at one point seemed to slightly favor Brown, has now seen Warren progressively inch her way up to the clear frontrunner.  While Brown is very popular in the state, this race seems like Warren’s to lose.

Result:  DEMOCRATIC PICKUP.
What To Expect?:  Warren becomes the face of progressivism in the Senate and is instantly talked about as a 2016 candidate for President or Vice President.  Scott Brown more than likely looks to the gubernatorial race to succeed Deval Patrick in 2014.  He isn’t going away.
Final Result: Warren – 52%, Brown – 48%

Michigan

At one point it was thought Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow would be another potential pickup for the Republican Party.  The GOP nominated former Rep. Pete Hoekstra but after an offensive ad aired during the Super Bowl, the race was never seriously contested.

Result: Retained Democratic seat.
What To Expect?: Usual Stabenow record.  Hoekstra’s ad becomes a litmus test on how not to campaign.
Final Result:  Stabenow – 56%, Hoekstra – 43%, Others – 1%

Minnesota

Amy Klobuchar is tremendously popular, a potential lower-tier prospect for 2016 and is easily going to win re-election.

Result:  Retained Democratic seat.
What To Expect?:  Trips to Iowa?
Final Result: Klobuchar – 64%, Bills – 36%

Mississippi

Republican Roger Wicker will easily triumph Al Gore (not the one you are thinking).

Result:  Retained Republican seat.
What To Expect?:  Usual Wicker voting record, and a few pundits going “Not That Al Gore”.
Final Result:  Wicker – 73%, Gore – 27%

Missouri

Claire McCaskill, a one-term Democrat first elected in 2006, seemed to be likely to lose her seat; even when the Missouri GOP nominated Rep. Todd Akin over other opponents. Yet, Todd Akin made the first major political gaffe of the 2012 election cycle by saying the now infamous words “legitimate rape”.  Akin lost establishment funding and the fact that the race is still within the single digits is telling on McCaskill’s lack of popularity.

Libertarian Jonathan Dine should do moderately well as I expect centrist Republicans to stray away from Akin.

Result: Retained Democratic seat.
What To Expect?: McCaskill stays as a centrist while national pundits look to Missouri as a reason why the GOP lost out on gaining seats.
Final Result:  McCaskill – 49%, Akin – 44%, Dine – 7%

Montana

This is my prediction for the closest race of the night.  Montana has a slight purple hue to it and incumbent Sen. Jon Tester has a decent shot at re-election though Rep. Danny Rehberg has run a very competitive campaign.  A Libertarian, Dan Cox, looks to make a slight dent in the polls and it appears he could end up playing a spoiler role here.  Flipping a coin to decide this race isn’t a bad idea.

Result:  Retained Democratic seat.
What To Expect?:  A very close race.
Final Result:  Tester – 49%, Rehberg – 48%, Cox – 3%

Nebraska

Retiring Democratic Senator Ben Nelson makes this race one of the prime pick-up opportunities for the Republican Party.  The GOP nominated Nebraska Attorney General Deb Fischer in a slightly shocking result while the Democrats recruited former Senator & Governor Bob Kerrey.

Initial polls showed Kerrey down by double digits though some polls indicate the race tightening.  I’m in-between.  I think Kerrey loses by single digits just because of his name recognition and old popularity but I expect a comfortable Fischer win.

Result: REPUBLICAN PICKUP.
What To Expect?: Fischer becomes one of the Senate’s most conservative members and someone who should easily win re-elections in dark red Nebraska.
Final Result: Fischer – 54%, Kerrey – 46%

Nevada

After the early retirement of scandal-plagued John Ensign, Governor Brian Sandoval appointed Rep. Dean Heller to be the new Senator of Nevada.

Democrats, sensing Nevada’s Hispanic population to be the source of a big pickup opportunity, nominated Shelley Barkley to be Heller’s appointment.  The race seems to be leaning more and more into Heller’s favor and this might have been a missed opportunity by the Democrats.

Result:  Retained Republican seat.
What To Expect?: Heller won’t be an extreme GOP vote, but might be one of the more targeted politicians in the country in 2018.
Final Result:  Heller – 53%, Barkley – 47%

New Jersey

A potential scandal didn’t stick to incumbent Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez and he should easily march to victory over Republican challenger Joseph Kyrillos.

Result:  Retained Democratic seat.
What To Expect?:  Usual Menendez voting record.
Final Result:  Menendez – 57%, Kyrillos – 41%, Others – 2%

New Mexico

Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman decided to retire leaving the seat an open race.  While there was some possibility over a close matchup between Democratic Rep. Martin Heinrich and former Rep. Heather Wilson; it appears the Democrats will hold this seat.  Independent American Party candidate Jon Barrie has been polling in the mid-single digits this cycle.

Result:  Retained Democratic seat.
What To Expect?: 
Heinrich leans to the liberal side of the Democratic caucus.
Final Result:  Heinrich – 53%, Wilson – 43%, Barrie – 4%

New York

Kirsten Gillibrand is one of the rising Democratic stars in the party and she’ll easily triumph over Republican challenger Wendy Long.

Result:  Retained Democratic seat.
What To Expect?:
 Gillibrand either emerges as a future leader in the party (until retirement of Harry Reid) and whispers of 2016 start forming if Hillary Clinton doesn’t run.
Final Result:  Gillibrand – 68%, Long – 31%, Others – 1%

North Dakota

One of the more tighter races in this country is this open race that became wide open after the retirement of Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad.  Tea Party favorite Rick Berg won the Republican nod while former ND AG Heidi Heitkamp won the Democratic bid.  The race was slightly shockingly tight for awhile but it looks like North Dakota’s natural red tint will give this race to Berg.

Result:  REPUBLICAN PICKUP.
What To Expect?:
 Berg becomes one of the fringier right-wing candidates in the GOP caucus and becomes universally despised by liberals.  Heitkamp increases her profile enough to run again for another office.
Final Result:  Berg – 53%, Heitkamp – 47%

Ohio

Besides Elizabeth Warren, there isn’t a candidate progressives want to see win more than Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown.  Brown, a progressive in a swing state, was thought to be vulnerable and even though the state was bombarded by Republican money in support of challenger Josh Mandel; it looks Brown will survive.

Result:  Retained Democratic seat.
What To Expect?:  Brown continues to be himself.
Final Result:  Brown – 54%, Mandel – 46%

Pennsylvania

Widely assumed to be an easy win for incumbent Sen. Bob Casey Jr., this race got really tight as Republican millionaire challenger Tom Smith pumped tons of ad money into the state.  Casey is still the front runner but this race will end up much closer than once expected.

Result:  Retained Democratic seat.
What To Expect?: 
Casey Jr. continues to be a reliable vote sans on abortion.
Final Result:  Casey Jr. – 54%, Smith – 46%

Rhode Island

Sheldon Whitehouse will cruise to re-election.  I just think it’d be awesome if someone named Whitehouse won the Race To The White House, just because.

Result:  Retained Democratic seat.
What To Expect?:
 One of the first races called.
Final Result: Whitehouse – 64%, Hinckley 36%

Tennessee

Bob Corker was thought to be a potential victim to getting a primary challenge from the right but that never materialized.  Corker will face questionable Democrat, Mark Clayton, who marched to victory after poor campaigning by establishment choice Park Overall.

Result:  Retained Republican seat.
What To Expect?
:  National questioning of Tennessee Democratic Party.
Final Result:  Corker – 69%, Clayton – 31%

Texas

After a contentious primary, Tea Party darling Ted Cruz was the Republican choice to succeed retiring Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison.  The Democrats chose former state legislator Paul Sadler to face-off against Cruz.  Cruz’s popularity on the right will have him look national soon.

Result:  Retained Republican seat.
What To Expect?:
  Marco Rubio-like surge of popularity for Cruz?  Potential VP prospect of 2016?
Final Result:  Cruz – 58%, Sadler – 42%

Utah

Longtime Republican senator Orrin Hatch was thought to have been a potential victim of a primary but staved off threats from Congressman Jason Chaffetz and is the candidate for 2012.

Result:  Retained Republican seat.
What To Expect?:  Race called immediately, Hatch continues his embrace of far-right ideology.
Final Result:  Hatch – 71%, Howell – 28%, Others – 1%

Vermont

Bernie Sanders wins again, continues to be the current model of progressivism in Congress.

Result:  Retained Independent seat.  Caucuses with Democrats.
What To Expect?: 
The same out of the outspoken Sanders.
Final Result:  Sanders – 74%, MacGovern – 25%, Others – 1%

Virginia

With the retirement of one-term Democratic Sen. Jim Webb, the Democrats recruited Tim Kaine (head of the DNC) to run for the open seat while Republicans chose former Sen. George Allen as their nominee.  The race was remarkably close for a long duration of time until Kaine started to edge away.

Result:  Retained Democratic seat.
What To Expect?:  Kaine continues to be a leader in D.C. but might get frustrated with the Senate.  Still has national ambitions.
Final Result:  Kaine – 52%, Allen – 48%

Washington

An easy win for Maria Cantwell, as she wins a third term for the Democrats.

Result:  Retained Democratic seat.
What To Expect?:
  More of the same out of Cantwell, as she falls into line.
Final Result:  Cantwell – 59%, Baumgartner – 41%

West Virginia

Conservative Democrat Joe Manchin continues to win in West Virginia and seems set for life there.

Result:  Retained Democratic seat.
What To Expect?:
  Occasional rumors of party-switching, but continues to be a thorn-in-the-side for the Democratic Party.
Final Result:  Manchin – 61%, Raese – 39%

Wisconsin

Progressive Rep. Tammy Baldwin won the Democratic nomination as former Governor Tommy Thompson edged out a primary challenge to become the Republican nominee to replace retiring Sen. Herb Kohl.  This race, with the possible exception of Montana, will be consistently tight though Thompson has showed frustration on his inability to establish lead against Baldwin.

If Baldwin wins, she will be the first openly lesbian Senator in US history.

Result:  DEMOCRATIC PICKUP.
What To Expect?:
  Baldwin joins Warren as being the new faces of progressivism, joining Sanders and Brown.  Thompson retires from politics.
Final Result:  Baldwin – 51%, Thompson – 49%

Wyoming

John Barrasso coasts to victory.

Result:  Retained Republican seat.
What To Expect?:
  No one remembers this race.
Final Results:  Barrasso – 77%, Chesnut – 23%

Final tally?  Democrats – 55, Republicans – 45.
Races that can flip?:  Montana & Wisconsin.

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