The Outlook For The 2016 U.S. Senate Elections Part II

This article is Part II of a 2-part series analyzing the 34 U.S. Senate elections in November, 2016. Currently, the Republicans control the Senate with 54 seats to 44 for the Democrats and two held by Democratic-leaning independents Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Angus King (Maine).

The 2016 Senate elections are particularly important because there is a Supreme Court vacancy caused by the Feb. 13 death of Justice Antonin Scalia. In all likelihood, the vacancy won’t be filled in 2016 and the decision will be made by the next president and the next Senate.

Part I of the series examined the re-election prospects of the 21 GOP senators seeking re-election. Five of those senators could have problems getting re-elected — underdogs Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Ron Johnson (Wis.) and slight favorites Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Pat Toomey (Pa.).

If all five lose, the GOP will need to win at least one seat currently held by a Democrat. Part II examines those races as well as three open seats currently held by a Republican.

The 13 elections in seats not held by a Republican seeking re-election are in alphabetical order by state:

CALIFORNIA:

Barbara Boxer, one of the most liberal senators in the United States, is retiring after four terms and 24 years in office. Open seats often mean competitive races, but that might not be true in California because it’s one of the most liberal states in the nation. Two of the three major objective analysts — Sabato’s Crystal Ball and the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report — rate the race as “Safe Democratic” while the third — The Cook Political Report — rates the race as “likely” to be won by a Democrat. California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez are the leading Democratic candidates. Two ex-state party chairpersons — Tom Del Beccaro and Duf Sundheim — are the leading Republican candidates.

COLORADO:

Michael Bennet, a Democrat, was appointed in 2009 and was barely elected in 2010. If Republicans maintain their Senate majority, a key reason is likely to be the defeat of Bennet, a nondescript senator who has pretended that he isn’t liberal. All three political experts cited above rate Bennet a slight favorite, but that might be because it’s unclear now who his Republican opponent will be. At this point in 2014, incumbent Democratic senator Mark Udall was more favored than Bennet is now, but he lost to a Republican. There are several GOP candidates. The winner of the GOP primary might be a much stronger candidate than Bennet.

CONNECTICUT:

The incumbent senator, Richard Blumenthal, was first elected in 2010. He beat famous wrestling entertainment executive Linda McMahon 55 to 43 percent. During the election campaign, it was learned that he had lied about being a soldier during the Vietnam War. Perhaps, the residents of Connecticut will punish Blumenthal for his lies this time. However, the three analysts currently rate Blumenthal as a heavy favorite. The leading Republican candidates are currently 1984 national men’s shot put champion Augie Wolf and former West Hartford councilman Joe Visconti.

FLORIDA:

It’s likely that more money will be spent on this Senate race than any other. Marco Rubio is the incumbent senator, but he is, as you know, currently running for president. All three analysts rate this race a tossup. The leading Republican candidates include Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and congressmen Ron DeSantis and David Jolly. The leading Democratic candidates are radical congressman Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy.

HAWAII:

Brian Schatz replaced the deceased Daniel Inouye in 2012. His seat is rated as safe Democrat by all three analysts.

INDIANA:

Dan Coats, a Republican, is retiring. He was a senator from 1989 to 1999 and was elected again in 2010. Cook and Sabato believe it is likely that Coats will be replaced by another Republican, while Rothenberg wrote that a Republican is favored. The leading Republican candidates are current congressmen Marlin Stutzman and Todd Young, while ex-congressman Baron Hill is the leading Democratic candidate.

LOUISIANA:

David Vitter, a Republican, is retiring. His seat is rated as “Safe” Republican by Cook, “Solid” Republican by Rothenberg, and “Likely” Republican by Sabato. The most likely future Republican senators include current congressmen Charles Boustany and John Fleming and state treasurer John Kennedy.

MARYLAND:

First the good news — one of the most liberal senators is fi____________nally retiring. Barbara Mikulski has been in the Senate since 1987. Good riddance. Now the bad news — all the objective analysts believe she will be replaced by a liberal Democrat. The most likely future senators in Maryland are two current members of the U.S. House — Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen.

NEVADA:

This race is double good news for Republicans. First, Harry Reid is retiring. The leader of the Senate’s Democrats since 2005 has been a senator since 1987. Unlike Mikulski, there is a good chance that he will be replaced by a Republican. In fact, this seat is THE most likely Republican gain, although all three analysts currently rate the race a “tossup.” Republican congressman Joe Heck will hopefully beat the most likely Democratic nominee, former state attorney general Catherine Cortez Masto.

NEW YORK:

We wish we could write that incumbent Democratic senator Chuck Schumer is vulnerable, but he isn’t. All three analysts believe this is a safe Democratic seat. Congressman Peter King might be the best potential Republican candidate but as of now there isn’t even any official challenger.

OREGON:

It’s amazing that Democratic incumbent Ron Wyden has been a senator since 1996 because it’s not clear what he has accomplished in 20 years. Nevertheless, all three analysts rate this seat as safe Democratic. The best news might be that Sabato thinks that Wyden could still choose to retire at this late date.

VERMONT:

Patrick Leahy has been poisoning the U.S. Senate with his brand of extreme liberalism since 1975. He has, in fact, more seniority than any of the 100 senators. Unfortunately, he is regarded as the overwhelming favorite to be a very liberal senator for six more years. He is only 75 years old by the way.

WASHINGTON:

Patty Murray is actually one of the Democratic Party’s leaders in the U.S. Senate. That’s not a typo. She has been in the U.S. Senate since 1993 and all three analysts rate her as an overwhelming favorite to be re-elected in 2016.

The bottom line is that the Republicans’ best chances for gaining a seat in the U.S. Senate in 2016 are in Nevada and Colorado. The Democrats are heavily favored in the eight other races where the current senator is a Democrat. However, many of these Democrats have never been seriously challenged so perhaps strong Republican candidates will surprise the liberal media and political establishments as they have done before.


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