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Four southern U.S. Senate races are still too close to call

GOP holding leads in Arkansas and West Virginia; Democrats holding tough in Georgia and Kentucky

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

southern-states-lgWASHINGTON (CFP) — Two weeks out from election day, races for four southern U.S. Senate seats — two held by each party — are still too close to call, with control of the Senate hanging in the balance.

The latest polling shows races in North Carolina, Kentucky and Georgia are within the margin of error, while the race in Louisiana now seems certain to be heading toward a December runoff.

Depending on how these Southern races turn out, the question of which party will control the Senate could linger for more than a month before runoffs in Louisiana and possibly Georgia.

U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton

U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton

However, Republicans appear poised to pick up an open Democratic seat in West Virginia, and GOP U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton appears to have opened up a small lead over incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Pryor in Arkansas.

Democrats hold only eight out of 28 southern Senate seats. One of those seats, in West Virginia, is likely gone, and three others — in Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina — are in jeopardy.

The good news for Democrats is that two GOP-held seats, in Kentucky and Georgia, have turned out to be surprisingly competitive, despite the Republican tilt in both of those states.

Here are the current states of the southern Senate races:

Arkansas: The race between Cotton and Pryor has been neck-and-neck for the better part of a year, as outside groups poured tons of money into the Natural
State. But a Talk Business and Politics/Hendrix College poll released October 15 showed that Cotton has opened up an 8-point lead, the third media poll in a row that put the challenger ahead.

Louisiana: Recent polling shows Democratic U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and her chief Republican rival, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, about even but both far from the 50 percent either would need to avoid a runoff in the state’s jungle primary, where all candidates from all parties run in the same race. That would set up a December 6 runoff between the two, a head-to-head match-up that’s still too close to call.

West Virginia: This race is to pick a successor to retiring Democratic U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, and it looks increasingly like a GOP pickup, with U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito opening up a significant lead over Democratic Secretary of State Natalie Tennant. A CBS News/New York Times/YouGov poll in early October had Capito ahead by 23 points.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

Kentucky: The Senate’s top Republican, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is in a pitched battle with Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. Recent polls have shown the race as either too close to call or with McConnell slightly in the lead.

Georgia: This race, to pick a successor to retiring Republican U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss, is a contest between two political newcomers, Republican David Perdue and Democrat Michelle Nunn. Despite Georgia’ GOP tilt, Nunn has run a strong race, and the latest polling shows the contest within the margin of error. An interesting twist in Georgia is that if neither Perdue nor Nunn wins a majority, they would meet in a runoff December 10 — a possibility if the race is close and votes are syphoned off by third-party candidates.

North Carolina: Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan is seeking a second term against Republican State House Speaker Thom Tillis. Recent polling has shown this race is also within the margin of error.

Poll: Louisiana U.S. Senate race heading for a runoff

Control of the Senate could be in limbo until December if a runoff is needed to settle the race

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

louisiana mugNEW ORLEANS (CFP) — The U.S. Senate race in Louisiana appears headed for a runoff that’s still to close to call, which could leave the balance of power in the Senate up in the air until December, according to a new poll.

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu

The CNN/ORC International poll released September 28 shows incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu at 43 percent among likely voters, ahead of GOP U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy at 40 percent and Rob Maness, a Republican with Tea Party backing, at 9 percent.

In Louisiana, all candidates, regardless of party, run in the November “jungle” primary. If no one reaches a majority, the top two vote getters meet in a runoff December 6.

With a  margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent, the poll indicates that a runoff between Landrieu and Cassidy is likely.

U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy

U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy

In a hypothetical match up in the runoff, Cassidy was the choice of 50 percent to 47 percent for Landrieu, which was within the poll’s margin of error. However, among the larger pool of registered voters, Landrieu led Cassidy 51 percent to 45 percent — an indication that increasing voter turnout may be key to Landrieu’s survival.

The Louisiana race is one of eight contested Senate races across the South that are likely to decide which party controls the Senate.

A runoff would be nothing new for Landrieu. She faced a runoffs in 1996 and 2002 and survived both times.

The poll also found that just 37 percent of likely voters in Louisiana approved of President Obama’s job performance, compared to 61 percent who disapproved.

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