Four seats if Secretary Clinton wins the White House or five seats if she doesn't. That's the magic number Democrats need in order to retake control of the Senate next January and eight states will determine whether or not that happens.
Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Indiana, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Nevada. These states, all but one of them currently occupied by a Republican, are showing the Democrats have a real possibility to not only win control of the Senate, but by a comfortable margin. Most of these states also show Secretary Clinton with a comfortable lead over Donald Trump, which is only likely to help the Democratic Senate candidates down ballot.
Senator Pat Toomey is in deep trouble in a state that shows it's going to vote overwhelmingly for Secretary Clinton as President. Kathleen McGinty, Toomey's challenger, has led a strong campaign and had consistently polled ahead of Toomey since early August.
One of Toomey's main weaknesses is the person at the top of the Republican ticket for President. Donald Trump is deeply unpopular in the Keystone State and that usually spells trouble for down ballot politicians. Toomey has consistently refused to answer the simple question as to whether he will even vote for Mr. Trump, which only serves to frustrate both sides of the Republican divide. Not being willing to inform your own constituents how you're going to vote for will likely be one of the many things that will sink the first term Senator.
2) New Hampshire
Senator Kelly Ayotte is in the race of her life to win a second term to the Senate and just like many other Republicans the top of the ticket rapidly draining her prospects at doing so. Senator Ayotte made the now infamous statement during a debate that Donald Trump was "absolutely" a role model for children and young adults. That statement couldn't have come at a worse time for the Senator since the now infamous tape of Donald Trump admitting to sexually assaulting women was released three days later.
Senator Ayotte's challenger is also a formidable opponent considering she is the current governor of New Hampshire. The state does have a long history of splitting the ticket and this state is still a toss up, but it is one that Republicans didn't anticipate on having to fight for as hard as they winded up having to.
Indiana was supposed to be a slam dunk for the Republican Party, but it has proven to be more of a headache for them. Pundits and politicians alike basically wrote off Indiana as an easy win for U.S. Representative Todd Young, but that was before former Senator and beloved Hoosier Evan Bayh decided to throw his hat into the ring.
Bayh has consistently polled well ahead of Young, which is somewhat surprising considering Donald Trump is expected to easily win the state. It may all come down to name recognition for some Hoosiers and loyalty to the Bayh family, who have been involved in Indiana politics for decades.
Of all the chances for Democrats to retake control of the Senate, this one is the most surprising. Senator Roy Blunt is facing a surprisingly strong challenge from Missouri Security of State Jason Kander. Mr. Kander is a moderate Democrat in a deeply red state that is also looking like they will overwhelmingly vote for Donald Trump at the top of the ticket.
It may sound a little confusing, but this seems to be the "year of the outsider" for Missourians. They are one of many states who really don't like career politicians and if Senator Blunt is anything, it's a career politician. The voters in the state may also be drawn to Kander's moderate views on positions they tend to care about.
In a rematch from 2010, former Senator Russ Feingold is attempting to win back the seat he lost to Senator Ron Johnson in the 2010 "shellacking" election. Johnson has trailed badly in the polls from the beginning and he is running out of time to catch up.
The Republican Party has all but given up on Senator Johnson and is diverting their resources to other vulnerable Senators in closer races. Johnson is also stubbornly refusing to abandon Donald Trump in a state that he is widely expected to lose by high single digits. Add those two things together and you have a recipe for a one-term Senator to relinquish his seat to someone he beat six year prior.
Wisconsin's southern neighbor is also likely to cast out their Republican Senator for a highly respected Iraq War veteran and U.S. Representative representing Illinois 8th District. Polls have shown Senator Mark Kirk badly trailing Representative Tammy Duckworth since the beginning, but he likely sealed his fate during a debate on October 27th.
Representative Duckworth spoke about her families long history defending the United States from the American Revolution to the Iraq War and Senator Kirk responded with an attack on Rep. Duckworth's family heritage by saying that "I had forgotten that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington." Kirk later apologized, but the damage was already done and Senator Kirk is predicted to lose his reelection bid by a large margin.
This is the only state currently held by a Democrat that is a real tossup. Former State Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto is fighting against Republican Congressman Joe Heck to replace retiring Senator Harry Reid's open seat. Heck has led against Cortez Masto for much of the campaign, but that changed in a heartbeat when he withdrew his endorsement of Donald Trump in early October.
Heck has found himself in the most unwelcome of positions. He needs his base to come out and vote in droves in order to defeat Cortez Masto, but he also needs more than just his base to show up. His poll numbers have steadily declined since he announced he will no longer support Trump and he doesn't have much time to make it up.
Seven states. It may not seem like a lot of states, but these will be the states that determine whether or not the Democrats will be able to control the agenda in the Senate for the next two years.
It's very important to understand what that means. It means Democrats would control whether or not to hold hearings on Supreme Court and any other Federal appointees by the President. If that President is Hillary Clinton then they will have the power to hold the hearings on the vacant Supreme Court seat and any others that happen while they are in power and if that President is Donald Trump then they would have the power to do what the Republicans did and refuse to move on anyone they don't believe should be in positions of power.
Those are the stakes in November. That's why it's important to get out and vote like our future depends on it because it does.