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Posted at 5 a.m. on Aug. 28, 2014
The South continues to be dominated by big Senate races, with a couple of interesting House races sprinkled in for fun.
There have been two changes to the 5 races to watch list since last summer. North Carolina’s 7th District dropped off after Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre chose retirement instead of another competitive race against Republican David Rouzer. The Kentucky Senate race is still competitive between Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, but everyone will be watching that race regardless of whether I include it on the list.
Here are the top five races to watch in the South next year:
Arkansas Senate. Arguing over whether Democrat Mark Pryor is the most vulnerable senator in the country misses the point: He is in a tight race for re-election against GOP Rep. Tom Cotton. Democrats are making an unprecedented push on the ground to get out the vote, but it might not be enough to overcome President Barack Obama’s incredible unpopularity in the state. It’s hard to see Republicans getting to the majority without winning Arkansas. The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Tossup/Tilts Republican.
Louisiana Senate. Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu might be more vulnerable than Pryor, but Louisiana’s unique election laws make it difficult to handicap her race. If she can’t get above 50 percent in November against GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy, then the contest moves to a December runoff, where it will likely be affected by the state of the race for the Senate majority. The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Pure Tossup.
Florida’s 2nd District. Democrats are excited about their nominee Gwen Graham, daughter of former Gov. and Sen. Bob Graham. She avoided a competitive primary this week and is running an aggressive and well-funded challenge to GOP Rep. Steve Southerland II. Graham may have the crossover appeal necessary for a Democrat to win this polarized district. The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Tossup/Tilts Republican.
North Carolina Senate. State Speaker Thom Tillis survived the Republican primary, but the special legislative session could end up being the undoing of his bid to defeat Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan. The incumbent appears to be walking a narrow path to victory that involves making sure her opponent is less popular than she is and the Libertarian candidate receives a sizable chunk of the vote — thereby lowering her threshold for victory. The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Tossup/Tilts Democratic.
Virginia’s 10th District. Republican open seats in Pennsylvania and New Jersey might be out of reach for Democrats in this midterm election, but Frank R. Wolf’s seat in Virginia could be a rare bright spot for Democrats. Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust might be punching above his weight class in the congressional race. But GOP nominee Barbara Comstock is uniquely polarizing, and some GOP strategists aren’t excited about how the candidate is running her own campaign. The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Leans Republican.
What races would you add to or subtract from the list?
Note: This is the seventh in a series of regional looks at the most competitive House and Senate races to watch. The South region includes: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. The previous regions: Mid-Atlantic, New England, Midwest, Plains, West and Mountain.