Five most competitive Senate races


The flurry of polls, ads and press releases can’t obscure the fact that the outlook for the Senate is beginning to harden.

As the 2010 campaign winds toward its final month, Democrats look like they’ll need Hail Mary passes in states like Arkansas and Indiana. In Delaware, a ripe GOP pickup opportunity seems to have been scuttled. Elsewhere, consistent polling has formed a rough consensus about the direction of several races.

Still, there is a set of Senate contests — marked by unpredictable candidates, razor-thin polling margins or a conflicted electorate — that seem destined to produce photo finishes on Election Day. With just five weeks left, here’s POLITICO’s list of the five most competitive Senate battles.

1. Nevada

The marquee race of the election cycle, the Nevada Senate contest has, for many voters, devolved into a choice between the lesser of two evils. Embattled Majority Leader Harry Reid is saddled with explaining away a record 14 percent state unemployment rate, while former GOP Assemblywoman Sharron Angle can’t seem to go a week without making a head-scratching statement that provides Democrats with fresh fodder to pummel her as an extremist.

Beltway Republicans privately joke that if they could just send Angle on a vacation to a faraway island until Election Day, Angle would be the next senator from Nevada. But while she’s dodging debates and eluding reporters, the hits keep coming from the Democratic video vault. Most recently, a clip of Angle appearing to disparage insurance coverage for autism dominated the media, prompting the GOP nominee even to avoid a question from a voter on the topic. Nonetheless, Democratic strategist James Carville told POLITICO, “She’s running the worst campaign in the country, and she could still win.”

Until the Retail Association of Nevada released a GOP survey last week showing a 5-point Reid lead, no poll had shown the pair separated by more than 2 percentage points over the past month. That makes it the premier nail-biter, which ultimately could be decided by who has the worst final week.

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