Election day showdowns
Several bellwether races -- in Nevada, Pennsylvania, Colorado, California and Massachusetts -- key in possible GOP sweep.
This story was originally covered by PRI's Here and Now. For more, listen to the audio above.
The most expensive midterm election in history comes to a close on Tuesday. It's being described as a referendum on the Democratic Congress and incumbents in general. Republicans are poised to take control of the House (the question is by how much) and either make gains in or take over the Senate.
A new Gallup poll shows that Republicans have a 15 percent edge over Democrats among likely voters on a generic congressional ballot. But individual races are much closer and tougher to call. Several bellwether races -- in Nevada, Pennsylvania, Colorado, California and Massachusetts -- will be key to any GOP sweep.
In Nevada, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid is fighting for every vote against Republican nominee and Tea Party favorite, Sharron Angle. While there are nine choices on the Nevada ballot, one of which is "None of these Candidates," Jon Ralston, chief political writer for the Las Vegas Sun, which endorses Harry Reid, believes the Senator still has a chance.
"What he's trying to do," says Ralston, "is get people who are moderate Republicans and moderate Independents, who might not be thrilled with a Democratic agenda, but they're saying to themselves 'I just can't vote for Sharron Angle for x, y or z' -- that is what Harry Reid's entire campaign has been. It has been so relentless, I think they've done just enough to squeak by."
Key is whether Angle's stance on illegal immigration, which may win over Independents who make up between 15 and 20 percent of the electorate, will override Reid's attempt to get the Hispanic vote, which make up about the same percentage of the electorate.
In Pennsylvania, Democrat Joe Sestak is trailing Republican Pat Toomey by four points in the Senate race. The state's Governor's race shows Republican Tom Corbett ahead of Democrat Dan Onorato by about eight points in the polls.
John Micek, State House reporter for Allentown’s The Morning Call, uses the metaphor "street-to-street fighting" to describe what he sees happening election night.
"What it's going to come down to is who's going to be better ... at getting their vote out, and trying to get as many of those undecided to break for them as possible," says Micek.
Colorado’s Senate race is being called the closest in the country. Both parties are already prepping their legal teams in the event of a recount. Democratic Senator Michael Bennet and Tea Party-backed Republican challenger Ken Buck have about a one-to-two point difference in the polls says Greg Moore, editor of the Denver Post.
In California, longtime incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer is ahead in the polls, but still facing a tough opponent in Republican Carly Fiorina. John Myers, KQED Sacramento Bureau Chief, says it's a tough year for Democrats and the race in California has been a referendum on Boxer, who many view as being partisan.
"We are in one of the bluest states in the country, here in California," said Myers, "and even now we're having very tough times with Democratic incumbents and I think Boxer realizes she's got a very tight race. Even this weekend, her campaign was putting new ads on the radio. The polls show somewhere between a three and a five point race right now."
The state's Governor's race sees new urgency as election day nears. Democrat Jerry Brown leads Republican Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay, in the polls.
"This race really has come down to whether or not a newcomer has made the case that she's ready for elected office, that she's qualified for the job," said Myers. "I certainly don't think a lot of people are flocking to support Jerry Brown; it maybe is more a vote against Meg Whitman as governor of California."
In Massachusetts, Republican candidates for Congress are hoping the Scott Brown effect will rub off on them. Representative Barney Frank is 14 points ahead of Republican challenger, Sean Bielat, but the newcomer is getting a lot of attention.
Fred Thys, Here and Now political reporter, says Social Security has dominated the debates between Frank and Bielat. "Frank has managed to dominate the debate, much to his benefit, because he's been able to raise questions about whether Bielat would want to raise the retirement age, and Bielat has admitted that he supports partially privatizing Social Security."
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