Senate races to watch
• Montana: Two candidates who’ve successfully run statewide, freshman incumbent Democratic Sen. Jon Tester and Republican Denny Rehberg, the state’s six-term at-large congressman, are in a slugfest that’s impossible to call. The Cook Political Report’s Jennifer Duffy termed this race “a marathon on a treadmill.”
• North Dakota: Once expected to move into Republican control, the seat held by retiring Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, a Democrat, has turned this small state into a political combat zone. Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, a former attorney general who’s seasoned in statewide races, is credited with running an energetic campaign against freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Rick Berg.
• Virginia: Two former governors are competing in a state that’s already getting lots of attention because it’s a presidential-race tossup. Democrat Tim Kaine has pulled slightly ahead in most polls, but Republican George Allen has won statewide twice before, for governor in 1993 and Senate in 2000. Turnout for Obama or Romney could make the difference here.
• Nevada: UNLV’s David Damore described the race as a choice between unpopular alternatives. Incumbent Republican Sen. Dean Heller has been slipping; his 9-percentage-point lead in July’s Rasmussen poll shrank to 1 last week. Democratic U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley has faced ethics questions over her efforts to affect federal involvement in kidney health policy. Her husband is a well-known Las Vegas nephrologist. Nevada’s economy has been as dismal as any state’s in the nation, but what might make the difference are immigration issues, particularly since 15 to 20 percent of the vote may come from the Latino population.
• Massachusetts: Democrat Elizabeth Warren led incumbent Republican Sen. Scott Brown by an average of 2.4 percentage points in polls taken last week, according to RealClearPolitics, a website that compiles such data. Warren has been gaining slowly, and David Paleologos, the director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, attributed her progress to Democrats warming to the fiery consumer advocate. Brown faces another problem: Though Romney is a former governor of the state, he isn’t particularly popular. Last week’s Suffolk poll found Obama ahead by 64-31 percent. Massachusetts voters, though, are known for embracing moderate Republicans, and the poll found that half liked the idea of bipartisan representation in Washington.