Voices: These are the Senate seats most likely to flip in November

·4-min read

Greetings from Wilmington, North Carolina! We are in the Tar Heel state for Donald Trump’s rally for Ted Budd, his anointed Senate candidate, and it’s just the occasion to update our Senate rankings!

Since our last ranking, plenty has changed. Throughout the summer, polling showed Democrats had a significant advantage after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v Jackson decision overturned Roe v Wade. Republicans struggled throughout the summer to find a counter-narrative and have already begun triaging some Senate races.

But voters typically begin to pay attention in the fall and the airwaves are about to be bombarded with ads. That being said, Republicans are not out of the woods yet. After careful consideration of fundraising, polling and ad buys, The Independent has decided to take Arizona’s Senate race off the most likely to flip map and added North Carolina.

While anything could happen, Democratic Senator Mark Kelly’s prolific fundraising, combined with the feud between Senate Mitch McConnell’s feud with Peter Thiel and the Senate Leadership Fund’s decision to pull out of the state, favours Mr Kelly.

Here’s our ranking of the Senate seats most likely to flip in descending order. Yell at us accordingly:

Nevada (Republican pickup): Nevada moves up one notch to the top of our list of most-flippable Senate races. Democratic incumbent Senator Catherine Cortez Masto is running against former attorney general Adam Laxalt and she has attempted to maintain the focus on abortion rights. But polls in recent days have shown Mr Laxalt with a slight edge (though, in fairness, polls have frequently been off in Nevada).

Republicans haven’t won a Senate race in Nevada since 2012, so this would be a major coup for them, specifically as many Hispanics in the state move rightward. Ms Cortez Masto had previously called to debate Mr Laxalt, often a sign that a candidate is losing, but Mr Laxalt declined a debate in Reno and he did not agree to a debate in Las Vegas either.

Pennsylvania (Democratic pickup): By far the ugliest and most personal Senate race in the country remains Democrats’ best pick up opportunity. Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman’s lead against Republican nominee and former television host Mehmet Oz has narrowed. The latest Morning Call/-Muhlenberg College pollshowed Mr Fetterman with a five-point lead, down from some of his sky-high numbers.

Republican Senate candidate Dr Mehmet Oz, a Republican speaking at a rally in Pennsylvania (AP)
Republican Senate candidate Dr Mehmet Oz, a Republican speaking at a rally in Pennsylvania (AP)

But Dr Oz’s unfavorability rating remains his biggest roadblock: the former physician has a 29 per cent favorability rating and a 53 per cent unfavorability rating. Republicans have tried to hit Mr Fetterman on crime, with former president Donald Trump baselessly accusing Mr Fetterman of taking illegal drugs. After a back-and-forth about setting a debate, the two will meet on 25 October.

Georgia (Republican pickup): For much of the spring and summer, former University of Georgia running back Herschel Walker led incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock, before a flurry of negative stories weakened the Republican. Mr Warnock is one of the most prolific fundraisers in the Senate and after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, polls showed him coming back. Now, polls show Mr Walker either in the lead or in a tight race.

The latest CBS/YouGov poll showed Mr Warnock has a two-point lead among likely voters but an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll showed Mr Walker with a two-point lead. The two have agreed to a debate on 14 October and Mr Warnock has already tried to tamp down expectations. If neither candidate gets at least 50 per cent of the vote, it will go into a runoff.

Former US Ambassador Nikki Haley appearing on behalf of Republican US Senate candidate Herschel Walker in Georgia (EPA)
Former US Ambassador Nikki Haley appearing on behalf of Republican US Senate candidate Herschel Walker in Georgia (EPA)

Wisconsin (Democratic pick up): Wisconsin remains at number four despite the fact the race has changed drastically. Last month, Democrats coalesced around Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes ahead of the primary in hopes of giving him a boost against incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson.

As we’ve discussed in this space, Republicans have hit him for being weak on crime and Mr Barnes’s approval rating among independent voters took a serious hit. Another poll from Emerson College found Mr Johnson with a four-point lead against Mr Barnes. The two will face off in a single debate on 13 October in Milwaukee.

North Carolina (Democratic pick up): Democrats have been Charlie Brown to North Carolina’s Lucy with the football ever since Barack Obama won the state in 2008 and Kay Hagan outran him in the Senate race. Since then, Republicans won four straight Senate races. Mr Trump won the state in both of his campaigns, even flipping historically Democratic counties.

Most polls show Mr Budd with a lead, which is unsurprising given the state’s pinkish tilt. Emerson College Polling/CBS17/The Hill survey showed Ms Beasley reduced her deficit against Mr Budd to three points and a Civiqs poll showed her with a one-point lead.

While much of the focus on the Senate map has been on Ohio’s race between JD Vance and Tim Ryan, Mr Trump still won the state by eight points twice. Mr Ryan, the Democrat, might be able to pull off a miracle, but North Carolina is more flippable for the time being.

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