Missouri U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill still has a competitive re-election contest even after Republican officials shunned Representative Todd Akin, a top Democratic Senate campaign strategist said.
“It is still a competitive race” and the contest will “stay relatively close” through the Nov. 6 vote, Guy Cecil, the executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, told reporters today in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the Democratic National Convention begins today.
Outside of metropolitan St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri is “a culturally and socially conservative state” that votes more like a Southern state than a Midwestern state, Cecil said.
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus has said his group won’t help Akin, who said Aug. 19 that “legitimate” rape rarely leads to pregnancy. Akin resisted calls from Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and other party officials to withdraw from the race.
Democratic Senators Jon Tester of Montana, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, and Bill Nelson of Florida also have competitive re-election contests, Cecil said. Montana votes Republican in presidential elections and Ohio and Florida are swing states.
Democrats are looking to unseat Republican Senators Scott Brown in Massachusetts and Dean Heller of Nevada. Elizabeth Warren, a one-time adviser to President Barack Obama who is challenging Brown, will address the Democratic convention tomorrow.
Democrats also are targeting seats in Indiana and Arizona that Republican senators aren’t defending.
Democrats currently control the Senate by a 53-47 margin, though Republicans may win a majority partly because Democrats are defending 23 of the 33 seats on Nov. 6 ballots. Seven Democrats aren’t seeking re-election.
Despite those challenges, “we are today in a better position than we were in January of last year,” Cecil said. ”Having said all that, in many cases these races are really just getting engaged. Candidates are just going on the air.”
Democrats face determined Republican campaigns to win open seats in Nebraska, where Republican state senator Deb Fischer leads former Senator Bob Kerrey; North Dakota, where former state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp is competitive with Republican Representative Rick Berg in a state that has voted Republican in 11 straight presidential races; Virginia, where Republican former Senator George Allen and Democratic former governor Tim Kaine are in a close race; and Wisconsin, where Republican former governor Tommy Thompson faces Democratic Representative Tammy Baldwin in the home state of Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan.
Cecil said Democrats are in a stronger position than at the beginning of the cycle because of strong candidate recruitment and fundraising and by Republican candidates positioning themselves outside of the political mainstream.
As Republicans seek to link Democratic candidates to President Barack Obama, Democrats will have the capacity “to make the election a choice between two people,” Cecil said.
Brian Walsh, the communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in an e-mail that Republicans “are on offense in key states across the country” because Democrats have to defend a record of a $16 trillion national debt and an unemployment rate above 8 percent for more than three years.
“Apparently the only thing missing from Charlotte are actual rainbows and unicorns because it’s clearly the land of wishful thinking for national Democratic campaign strategists this week,” Walsh said.