With a week and a day to go until the US elections, here’s a quick run-down of the 33 Senate races. Currently, the Democrats have 53 seats (including two Independents who caucus with them) to the Republicans’ 47, so the GOP would need a net gain of four seats to take control. Back in the summer that looked pretty likely, but most of the races have since moved towards the Democrats. In fact, the Democrats are now more likely to extend their Senate majority than to lose it. The races are ranked from the most likely to change parties to the least likely.
1. Massachusetts (currently Republican)
Ever since Scott Brown won the 2010 special election following Ted Kennedy’s death, he was always going to be the most vulnerable Republican incumbent in 2012. But until the party conventions, Brown looked as though he might just manage to hold onto his seat, with the polls showing a very close race between himself and Democrat Elizabeth Warren. Since the conventions finished in early September, though, Warren has pulled out a clear lead. Eight of the nine polls in the past three weeks have shown Warren leading — by an average of more than four points — so this should be a safe pick-up for the Democrats.
2. Maine (R)
Independent former Governor Angus King looks set to win the seat being vacated by moderate Republican Olympia Snowe. Even though it’s a three-way race, polls suggest King will take more than 50 per cent of the vote. The only question is which party he’ll side with in the Senate. As he’s endorsed Barack Obama and is generally fairly left-wing, it’ll probably either be the Democrats or no one, so Maine is an almost certain Republican loss.
3. Nebraska (Democrat)
4. North Dakota (D)
Two red states where the Democratic incumbent is retiring. Both have seen surprisingly strong campaigns from the Democrat nominees — Bob Kerrey in Nebraska and Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota — and some of the polls have been closer than expected, but both are still very likely to go to the Republicans.
5. Montana (D)
Montana could well be one of the closest Senate races this year. Democrat incumbent Jon Tester faces a tough challenger in Denny Rehberg, who already represents the whole state as Montana’s lone Representative. Rasmussen’s latest poll has the race tied, while PPP shows a two-point lead for Tester.
6. Indiana (R)
Another race that looks very tight at the moment. Democrats’ hopes of picking up the seat began when Tea Party candidate Richard Mourdock beat 35-year incumbent Richard Lugar in the Republican primary, and were raised further during a debate last week, when Mourdock said that pregnancy from rape ‘is something God intended to happen’. The polls — all conducted before that remark — give Mourdock a small two-point lead.
7. Nevada (R)
8. Arizona (R)
Two western states where Democrat has a reasonable chance of taking the seat, but has always been the slight underdog. In Nevada, incumbent Dean Heller is running for election for the first time, after having been appointed to replace scandal-ridden John Ensign last year. In Arizona, three-term incumbent Jon Kyl is retiring. Polls of both races point to a Republican victory of two to four points, but the Democrats could still spring a surprise in either or both.
9. Wisconsin (D)
10. Connecticut (D)
11. Missouri (D)
12. Virginia (D)
All four of these states tell a similar story: they all looked like strong pick-up opportunities for the Republicans, but have since drifted away from them, with the Democrats posting consistent (if not huge) leads in the polls over the past two months or so.
13. West Virginia (D)
14. New Mexico (D)
15. Pennsylvania (D)
16. Ohio (D)
17. Florida (D)
18. Hawaii (D)
19. New Jersey (D)
20. Michigan (D)
Eight states where Republicans once fancied their chances, but where the Democrats have always been strong favourites and now look safe.
And finally, the 13 safe seats that were never really in play — seven Democratic, five Republican and one Independent: