What to Watch: National Senate Races
The Senate currently has 53 Democrats and 47 Republicans. Projections for the 113th Congress starting in January 2013 show 48 Democrats, 44 Republicans, 1 Independent, and 7 toss-ups. Parties need 51 seats to secure a majority.
With the 1 Independent - Angus King of Maine - likely to side with Democratic causes, the Democrats need at least two more seats to gain a majority and three to secure one.
One of the most watched races in the country is that between Sen. Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren. Brown formerly served in the Mass. State Senate and State House of Representatives, while Warren, a law professor at Harvard, gained national attention as the chair of the Congressional Oversight Committee, a post that required her to direct the Troubled Asset Relief Program, and the architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The race between the two lawyers is approaching a special status: the most expensive senatorial race in U.S. history. The fundraising total of the two thus far is $63.8 million - just shy of the Clinton-Lazio senatorial race's $69.2 million in 2000.
While both Warren and Brown have stuck to party lines when it comes to policy proposals - Brown favors lowering taxes, Warren favors increasing taxes for the wealthy - Brown has moved slightly leftward in a bid to capture more voters in the traditionally liberal state.
Warren supports Obamacare, the DREAM Act, marriage equality, and tougher gun control, and increased funds for public education. Brown has opposed both the DREAM Act and Obamacare, supports Roe v. Wade, supports public education, and believes marriage is between a man and a woman, although he has no intention to support a repeal of the current law in Massachusetts granting marriage equality.
Linda McMahon - the wife of wrestling tycoon Vince McMahon and former head of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) - is running against Chris Murphy, who currently represents Connecticut's 5th congressional district.
As of mid-October 2012, the race between Murphy and McMahon is in a dead heat, with McMahon's deeper pockets (she spent $50 million on a failed Senate bid in 2010) unable to overcome Murphy's deeper political experience.
Observers have noted the ferocity of the attacks between the two contenders. McMahon has played up Murphy's failure to pay his real estate bills and his absence for key congressional meetings, while Murphy has based his criticism around McMahon's work with the WWE and the company's treatment of women. Clips of McMahon family skits have only added to the drama.
On the issues, Murphy has supported increased environmental protection, opposed domestic oil drilling, supports a creation of the public option in healthcare reform, and supports LGBT rights. McMahon has emphasized her business experience and said that while she is pro-choice, she would have opposed President Obama's Affordable Care Act, particularly the requirement that employer-sponsored insurance programs provide access to birth control.
Dr. Richard Carmona is the former U.S. Surgeon General in George W. Bush's administration who resigned, testifying in 2007 that the Republican administration tried to dilute his recommendations because they conflicted with conservative ideology. He switched political teams and threw his hat into the ring for the Arizona Senate post left open by Republican Senator Jon Kyl.
Jeff Flake has served as Arizona's congressional representative from the 6th district, frequently opposing legislation that is favored by most Republicans. He is a fiscal conservative who supports immigration programs that provide a pathway to citizenship to undocumented immigrants.
Flake has also spun the dominant Republican criticism by casting his opponent - the Democrat Carmona - as harmful for women. To fuel his attack, Flake has relied on the anecdotes of Dr. Cristina Beato, a former acting assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, who said she feared Carmona because of his anger issues and poor treatment of women. Democrats have typically touted policies more favorable to women - from provisions of comprehensive health care reform to re-affirmed support for the women's right to choose.
As of mid-October, Flake leads in overall polls while two recent polls placed Carmona with a slim lead.