It is already obvious that control of the Senate will be up for grabs in 2012, with Republicans needing just 3 or 4 seats to take control (depending on whether the GOP wins the presidency and, along with it, the vice president’s tie-breaking vote).
How much do Senate races in presidential years depend upon which White House ticket carries a state?
Without a doubt, it is the tight Senate contests that can be most affected by the top of the ticket. Looking back at all the U.S. Senate races that were decided by 53-47% or less in the last eight presidential match-ups (1980-2008), a healthy 58% of the 66 truly competitive Senate battles have been won by the candidate of the presidential nominee that carried the state.
Other than Sen. Ben Nelson (D) in Nebraska, there are quite a few 2012 Senate contests almost certain to be substantially influenced by the downdraft from the presidential race, including but not restricted to Florida (Sen. Bill Nelson-D), Massachusetts (Sen. Scott Brown-R), Missouri (Sen. Claire McCaskill-D), Montana (Sen. Jon Tester-D), Nevada (Sen. John Ensign-R), North Dakota (open seat of Sen. Kent Conrad-D), Ohio (Sen. Sherrod Brown-D), and Virginia (open seat of Sen. Jim Webb-D).
When you watch these nine seats, seven of them currently held by Democrats, remember to include the presidential factor in your calculus. You can be certain that some lucky candidates in these states will be grabbing for their White House nominee’s coattails on Election Day.